When you have a dog meant to RUN all day, sometimes you end up running a lot too. And then you might do something crazy like sign up for an ultra marathon.
Ultra marathon training with dogs
I’ve been running for years and completed a marathon and many half-marathons. I even started a business where I took dogs on running sessions and covered up to 20 miles per day with dogs at my side.
But I’m new to “ultras.” And I’m new to distance running on trails. Most of my distance running has been on pavement or sidewalks.
My husband Josh and I signed up for a January 2018 50-mile trail race. Dogs aren’t allowed for safety reasons unfortunately, but our pup Remy can still train with us.
I thought I’d write a bit about our training since we’re just getting started. If people seem interested, I’ll update this post as we progress.
April 2019 update: We’ve now done three 50-mile ultras, the San Diego Trail 50 (twice) and the PCT 50. We’re training for our first 100-miler. I’ve updated this post a bit with more now that we’ve gone on much longer runs with our dog.
For a more basic guide on how to run with your dog, see:
Distance running and dogs
First things first, not all dogs are cut out for distance running, and not everyone agrees dogs should even go running at all. There were also people who believed I should not be running with my weimaraner until he was 18 months old. Heck, some people lost their goddamn minds when I took my puppy walking. See my post: How far can I walk my puppy?
So, what it comes down to is knowing yourself and knowing your dog. Consult with your dog’s vet and breeder, and then ultimately you have to make the best choice.
I personally believe running is great for most dogs and I tend to start them out running at an earlier age than most. This is because people are SLOW and when I run with my dog he is actually just trotting. You can read more about my general opinions on what age to start running with puppies HERE.
Ease into the long distance miles with your dog
This goes without saying, but you obviously need to gradually train your dog to handle distance running. My dog Remy has literally been training for distance running his whole life. He’s conditioned and adapted well to the many miles we put in.
Remy has been walking daily since he was 8 weeks old, and he’s been running regularly a few times per week since he was 6 months old. This started with just 1-2 slow miles a few times per week and eventually a 5-mile “long” run on the weekend once he was a year old.
Needless to say, Remy’s paws are tough and he’s in great shape with a lot of muscle. His joints also appear to be healthy, according to his vet.
Once Remy was about 18 months old, I felt it was safe to start taking him on a weekly run longer than 5 miles. So we gradually did 6, 8 and eventually 12 miles while living in San Diego.
Our ultra marathon training plan with our dog
Our current training plan generally consists of:
- 1 weekly long run of 2.5 to 8 hours
- 3-4 shorter runs per week of 2-6 miles each
- 2-3 cross-training workouts like weights or yoga
- 2 full days for rest or light walking
Remy tags along for all of this (nothing like yoga with a dog helping!) except for days when it’s too hot for him or if we run over 20 miles.
I did not take him on runs over 12 miles while living in San Diego. It was just too warm for him and he gives 110 percent at all times.
However, we moved to Montana in August 2018, and at that time my dog was about 2.5 years old. Since then, we’ve started taking him on longer runs of 15-20 miles every other week or so and he handles it just fine.
We also live in an area where he can be off leash almost all of the time, and I believe this is a big factor in allowing him to cover a greater distance with us. He can set his own pace, stop, speed up, etc. He can also eat snow or drink from the streams, although I always carry water for him.
Our training is more about time on our feet vs. speed. We walk the hills and we typically don’t go much faster than a 14- or 15-min mile pace on our long runs.
Obviously, we have to use common sense and for runs over 5 miles we evaluate whether or not we think Remy should go that day based on the weather. Our dog does not have an off switch. He will go until he drops, so it’s up to us to watch out for him if it’s even slightly warm or too cold.
Like I said, I found Remy’s limit to be about 2.5 hours or 12 miles in San Diego, if it was cool enough. If it was hot out, we didn’t run with him. Now that we’re in Montana and it’s winter, I am comfortable taking Remy along up to 20 miles if he’s able to be off leash and it’s not too cold.
In general, people can outrun dogs once we hit a certain distance. Dogs are fast, but most are not capable of the distances people can do. There are always exceptions, of course.
Like huskies, weimaraners are not your average dogs either. They are bred for endurance!
I don’t know how many miles the average bird dog covers in the field hunting, but my dog is bred for work! His parents are working dogs, and this pup is 100% committed to run, run, RUN!
Gear we use for our dog during ultramarathon training:
- Mighty Paw hands-free leash (pictured below)
Looking into buying:
- Ruffwear hydration dog backpack (pictured below)
The joy of running with dogs
Running with a dog is relaxing for me, even if I’m running with a maniac like Remy. Time on the trail is my weekly meditation, and I’m so glad Josh can experience this too.
This is why I love dogs so much. They’re eager for adventures and the outdoors and they’re just as eager to crash on the couch afterwards. Yes, even weims eventually do crash!
Dogs are grounding for me. Inspiring, simple and peaceful.
Our weim may not be a trained hunting dog. He’s not a very obedient dog or a well-mannered dog. But he’s an adventure dog!
He leads us where we want to be.
How about the rest of you. Do you run with your dog?
Do you have any questions about running with dogs?
Let us know in the comments!
-Lindsay, Josh, Ace & of course Remy!
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P.S. Just want to give a little shoutout to the world’s best dog, Ace! He may be retired, but I do not forget the thousands of miles we covered together. He’s very much enjoying his retirement. Good boy, Ace! May 2018 Update: Ace has passed away. Thank you for everything, Ace!