In case you’re new to the blog, or haven’t had the chance to catch up, Gretel suffered a back injury and was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD). When it happened, it was during a period when we were training for a 5k (it was jumping off the couch that injured her though). Of course, our training immediately stopped but the reality is that she should never run with me again. I thought the dreams of us crossing the finish line together were over.
I injured my back right after the marathon so my running came to a screeching halt. Years after my injury, I thought I could take up light running again but that didn’t work out. My back still couldn’t handle it and my “bad knees” had gotten worse. Eventually I put my head down, sighed, and swore off running. I never thought I would be able to run again, let alone complete a 5k.
Then one day a “miracle” happened.
How I Was Able to Run Again
I discovered some super cushy running shoes on a runner’s blog – Just a Colorado Gal – in her post Trail Running Essentials. I did some quick research on them and found that a lot of people with pain or injuries experienced less when they ran in the ultra-cushioned shoes from HOKA ONE ONE®. I was intrigued. After attending the Outdoor Retailer Show last summer and talking with a representative about how sad I was I couldn’t run anymore, they generously offered to send me a pair to try.
Hallelujah! The first time I wore these shoes, I was able to jog across a street without feeling like I was going to collapse in the crosswalk from pain. Eventually I got a little braver and started running a few hundred feet at a time. Then I increased to running for a whole minute.
Since then I’ve owned three different models of HOKA running shoes. I loved them so much I wanted to wear them everywhere. I got a pair I could use for light hiking, a pair of their hiking boots, and a pair of road running shoes. By far, the favorite pair I own is the Bondi.
It’s a max cushioned shoe made for neutral runners like me. While primarily designed for running on hard, man-made surfaces, the Bondi has just enough traction that I can run the light trails next to my house too. Even though the shoe has a thick sole, it’s still a “flat-foot technology” shoe (4mm drop from heel to toe; average shoes have a 15 mm drop) like I prefer. You can check out the other technical stuff about the shoe here but the bottom line is that they feel great and have allowed me to run again.
The HOKA PR team is really great. They could tell I was excited to be running again and wanted to make it even easier for me. They sent me a pair of Opedix Dual-Tec™ tights to try.
The tights have special bands of fabric in them that promote dynamic alignment of muscles and optimal joint function. The tights are designed to support people who need to reduce pain and wear and tear on joints like me. The seams on the tights popped and cracked when I put them on but they warned me that would happen since that is how the tights achieve the perfect custom fit. The first time I ran in them I felt like I could go a little longer, comfortably, than I could by wearing my HOKA shoes alone.
Pretty soon I found myself doing a little bit of running on a regular basis. It was more like a walk with some jogging thrown in but I was doing it! I was so happy to be back to it. I thought, if I can do this much, I can definitely train to run a 5k. My aspirations of running one with Gretel were born.
On Not Giving Up a Dream
Gretel and I started running together. We started out very slow. We started even slower that the Pooch to 5k training program we were following recommended. We made it to about week two when Gretel injured her back jumping off the couch.
After her diagnosis of IVDD, it was clear she would never be able to run with me again. Or at least she shouldn’t if I wanted her to stay healthy enough to hike with me for years to come (the irony that I was able to run again but now she was in the exact place I was in that regard is not lost on me).
The 5k we were shooting for when we started our training was the Seattle Furry 5k. I’d been wanting to run that race for almost 10 years but it never worked out. This year was the year it was going to happen. I had joined the PetHub Team (a company that makes awesome digital pet ID tags that I do some work for) for some extra support and I didn’t want to let them down by not running it. I didn’t want to let my own dream go either.
So what did I do? I didn’t give up. I found another way to make it happen.
I had been pushing Gretel in a dog stroller for her “walks” while she was recovering from her injury. Once, we were on the way to meet some friends and were running late. I jogged a bit, pushing the stroller. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be! That moment, the “way to make this happen” was clear. I decided to run the 5k anyway. My plan was to let Gretel walk with me for the warm up, push her in the stroller while I alternated between walking and jogging, and then let her out of the stroller to walk across the finish line.
Well, we did it!
It went even better than planned. I started out with the team and briskly walked with Gretel for almost 15 minutes. Then I put her in the stroller and started jogging. I alternated 2 minutes of jogging with one minute of walking. I expected to repeat that pattern 10 times and still have to walk to the finish but the finish line was in sight before I knew it. After my 7th round of run/jog I stopped to take Gretel out of the stroller. We proudly walked across the finish line to cheers of the crowd (ok, they were just clapping, not cheering for us personally but I’ll take it. Ha, ha).
I didn’t have to give up on running a 5k with Gretel and it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t nearly as sore as I thought I would be afterwards either. The HOKA shoes and Opedix tights really did their job.
I want to run one of the other dog-friendly 5k races in Seattle this summer with Gretel.
How about you? Would you ever run a 5k with your dog?