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On Labradors and Running Slowly
I'm not the runner I used to be and there is a reason (are reasons)
Henry is panting loudly on my home office floor as he sleeps. He's not snoring. He does that sometimes. We all think it's hilarious and try to control our laughter for fear of waking him up. But this sleep-panting is reserved for his post-run nap, which he takes on my office floor after draining his water bowl, spilling most of it on the floor, dripping water from his mouth as if he intentionally saves his last mouthful solely for the purpose of watering our home.
We ran a quick 5K today. And I mean run loosely. I run, labored and wheezing, while he sprints, stops, poops, marks, and generally frolics. Runs for him are like a young child on the day before his birthday—full of frantic excitement and expectancy and slightly annoying to those around them. He gets so excited for runs that he will go into my closet, fetch one of my running shoes, and bring it to me to remind me to run each day. If that doesn't work and my run is delayed until late into the day (read: any time after 11:00 AM), he'll go fetch my other running shoe and bring it to me, as if the problem is that I've somehow forgotten where my running shoes are. If I have the foresight to store my running shoes on a high shelf, he'll bring any other running-shoe-proxy that he can find—a boot, a flip flop, whatever. Who needs a running coach when you have a black labrador retriever?
And back to his running habits—the running, marking, and pooping—, habits that don't allow me the freedom to excel as a runner the way I'd like to, the way I used to. I used to be a legit triathlete (never elit, but respectable). I had a rule that I wouldn't train running, swimming, or biking in a single day unless I could train all three. And I trained most days. But now I can't get a single run in without yanking the leash to remind Henry that we can't stop to spend three minutes trying to figure out which neighborhood dog urinated on this particular clump of grass or without stopping to break out a small plastic bag to pick up his daily deposit (because people who don't pick up their dog's excrement are barbarians and should be denied basic civil privileges like voting and owning a handgun). For this reason, and other reasons related to whatever middle-aged is and that I'm not a carefree college student triathlete anymore, my mile times on any given run are embarrassingly slow.
But here is the thing, I'm good with that. When my Nike Run Club app tells me that I ran an eleven-minute mile, I turn to Henry and tell him, "Hey bud, we're getting faster." He looks at me with a face that I interpret as a labrador smile and responds by peeing on the exact spot that some other dog peed on earlier that morning.