By CEAN BURGESON
My three-year-old yellow lab’s name is Gunnar. But his name should be tow-truck.
I have been an on-again off-again runner for over 20 years. I’ve done one marathon -- probably my last -- and a couple of triathlons, along with several 5K’s and 10K’s to round things out. I wouldn’t say that I’m a great runner. I’m not fast, and I don’t ever win my age group.
But I enjoy running, and it makes me feel good. So I try to run a couple of times a week when the weather is nice. And I also like to exercise Gunnar. He gets plenty of exercise during bird hunting season, but the winter leaves him a little chunky. It just isn’t fun to take him outside for a walk during the bitter, cold, northern Michigan winter. So, it only made sense that I drag him along on my 5K workout runs.
Usually, he keeps up with me just fine. With his boundless energy and four legs, he stays just a bit ahead of me, sometimes pulling at the length of his leash. The only time I ever outlasted him on a run was when I foolishly took him on a five mile run. About halfway through, he just gave up and sat down. I tried to pull him along, but he refused to move his little legs. He was like one of those stubborn old mules in an old Laurel and Hardy film.
It turns out, he isn’t completely destructible. He can get tired. He does get overheated.
But at the 3.1 mile distance I usually do, he is a fantastic running partner. And a good motivator too. That’s why I said I should re-name him tow-truck, because when I’m dragging a little bit, maybe because I didn’t get enough sleep, or I ran the first half of my workout too fast, or simply because I’m not in the mood to run, he tows me along.
Gunnar keeps pressing on, keeps those paws pounding the pavement, and looks back at me with a “c’mon, man, put it in gear” kind of look. And that gets me going again.
He does exactly what you want a good running partner to do. He helps me through the rough spots.
There are some days when I really don’t want to work out, and I see him sitting by the door with that drooly perma-grin that says “where are you going? We’ve got work to do, partner.” I try to ignore him, but the guilt overcomes me more often than not, and we at least go on a brisk walk if we can’t make it for a full running session.
I’ve run with friends, co-workers, and in running clubs -- but the best running partner I’ve ever had is a furry yellow guy with a Scandinavian name who used to eat his own poop when he was little.
In fact, the only drawback to running with him is the occasional, shall we say, by-product, that I have to clean up after him when the run is over. But I suppose it’s the price to pay for his friendship, and his companionship.
So, as long as he is able -- and I’m willing -- I’ll continue to use him for motivation to exercise, and I’m sure he’ll continue to follow me out the front door and down the driveway for our two or three time per week running sessions. You’ll see us out there, along the side of the road -- sometimes with me pulling him along, other times with him pulling me along.
Mostly with him pulling me along.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org