Look Ma, We’re Running

Gretel and I taking a break during a Pooch to 5k training runI wasn’t a runner. Then life forced me to be. Then I liked it. Then I couldn’t. Now I might be a runner again.

I wasn’t much into sports. I grew up training to become a ballerina and, after I stopped, I wasn’t into taking on any kind of sport in high school.

One day I decided that I wanted to become a wildland firefighter. I was drawn to the danger, excitement and the forced camping all summer. I had worked in physical-labor type jobs up to that point so I figured “how hard could it be?”.

Even though I had been warned, I didn’t really understand that my job would entail running 3 – 5 miles a day on a team led by a former Marine. Everything hurt, it sucked, and I hated it. I made it through the summer though and even went back for a second.

During the school year between the first summer and the second, something started to happen. I actually missed running. I started running on occasion to get my “suffer fest” fix. It wasn’t the running itself I enjoyed – it mostly sucks while you are doing it – but the rush of endorphins and feeling of getting stronger I felt afterward.

After I graduated college and was looking for a job, I had a lot of time on my hands. I started to run a little more. That is when my roommate got a puppy. I wanted a dog so bad – a Rhodesian Ridgeback to be exact. My roommate’s job changed and she had to go out of town for work often. I offered to take care of her dog for her as kind of a “trial dog” (eventually he just became mine).

Even though it was a Dachshund, I made him my running buddy when he got old enough. It turns out he liked it. Chester helped me train for my first (well, only) marathon. He did the 3 – 5 mile short training runs with me in between my weekend long-distance runs.

I ran a couple of half marathons and completed my first marathon in 2004. Then I injured my back.

I recovered for a while and ran some but then I developed chronic back pain and my knees got worse. I never ran as much again and completely swore of it a couple of years ago to save my back and knees for hiking. I was kind of bitter about it though. I envied all of the runners I saw. Eventually I made peace with my decision and started living vicariously through others to get my fix.

One day I was reading one of my favorite “active” blogs – Just Colorado Gal – and discovered these weird looking shoes by a company called Hoka One One. At the time I swore of running, barefoot running in minimalist shoes were all of the rage. During the time I was burying my head in the sand about running, a new shoe technology took over the market. Maximalist shoes swung things the other way… kind of. Maximalist shoes borrow the “barefoot technology” of zero, or near zero, drop from heel to toe. However, the thin, barely padded sole of the shoe was replaced with approximately 2 inches of cushy rubber.

From what I understand, Hoka One One shoes, with their engineered midsole volume which is up to 2.5X the volume than standard running shoes, pretty much started the maximalist trend. They were created for marathoners and ultra-runners to help lessen the impact on joints and muscles. I did a little more research on these shoes and thought maybe, just maybe, they would allow me to do a little running again. I rushed out and bought a pair and can say that, for the first time in almost 3 years, I have been able to jog a little with minimal pain. Hallelujah!

Running with my Dachshund in my Hoka One One shoesI decided that I would train to run a 5k. Chester is too old to run with me now but Gretel has pretty much limitless energy. I found a Pooch to 5k training program that will get both Gretel and I in running shape the right way – slowly.

I started out with even less running than it suggests. We did a week alternating 30 second jogs with 90 minute walks and a second week doing 30 second jogs with 60 second walks. This morning we graduated to the first step in the program, alternating 60 seconds of gentle jogging with 90 seconds of walking.

I am still very much interested in saving my knees and back for hiking. If the running becomes too much for me, I will stop again. I have already started dealing with a new knee problem but the issue occurs after I have been hiking, not running, at this point. Gretel and I have big plans this summer (I’ll unveil our plans soon) that we really need to be in shape for so I hope the Hoka One One shoes can keep me running when I can’t get out of the city for a hike.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. I haven’t heard of those, they look pretty good. For several years I did triathlons. So I did a lot of biking and running, I hated the swim part though. Now I can’t run anymore because of a bad disk in my neck, and knees that aren’t so young anymore. Walking, hiking, and biking when I can keep me going though. I hope you can run enough to make yourself feel awesome again. If you enjoy, then absolutely go for it,

    1. I think most people in triathlons like the swimming part least. They train for it because it’s a necessary evil… or don’t and hope that their speed in the run and bike sections saves them. My biggest thing right now is losing weight and nothing is as easy, or gives you the same bang for your buck, as heading out your door for a run. My knees hurt me a lot but I take it easy and hope that losing 30 lbs will help my knees later.

  2. I just started running and I hate it. My hips are killing me and my boyfriend says it’s because I need to start stretching before and after. I also need better running shoes.

    I really want to keep at it. I don’t see any marathons in my future, I just like being out on my own 🙂

    1. I would caution against stretching too much before you run because your muscles are cold. It’s best to do things like jumping jacks, a 10 minute brisk walk, or something like that to get your muscles warmed up before you run. I know for sure I should always stretch after but I mostly don’t seem to get it done… and pay for that later. If you’ve never ran before, I would expect everything to hurt 🙂 I remember those first few weeks running on the fire crew and I thought I was going to die.

      1. Thank you so much. I have so many people giving me advice and I’m a bit overwhelmed. What you said makes perfect sense.

        Yesterday was a rest day. Today, I run.

  3. I trained and completed my first 5k last month, and I found that having the right shoes for my feet (after getting fitted at a run shop) made a huge difference in my comfort hitting the pavement. I hope your new shoes work well with your stride and help you along the way!

  4. I ran for many years until I discovered aerobics. Same physical benefits, you can do it inside, there’s music and the clothes are cuter.

    1. I am glad you found something that works for you. I don’t enjoy working out indoors at all. I also did not find I got the same feeling as running. You said “same physical benefits” and that might be true but is the feeling I am after most. I have other things I like to do that give me the physical benefits. My friend, who is my age loves, loves, loves water aerobics though. I say whatever inspires you and gets you to your goals.

  5. How does Gretel do with the runs? I find my dachshund likes to stop far too often to be a good running buddy. When it is a run, she’s a little more focused but it’s not too long before we have to stop, sniff, dig, mark, or even roll. I recently tried on 3 pairs of running shoes – low padding, moderate padding, and Hoka One One. I ended up going in the middle because I had come out of a lower padding sneaker but the Hoka’s were pretty fun. So cushy! Good Luck with the 5K! Are you planning a dog friendly race?

    1. Chester and Gretel were taught early on that the don’t get to stop every time they want to when we are out on walks. I certainly let them take potty breaks but if it turns out they just wanted to sniff something interesting then we move on. Their are times we stop and I let them sniff around but I determine when that is, not them.

      We don’t have any plans for a race. I just want to be able to build back up to that distance. We do have a couple of big adventures planned this summer that we will need to be in shape for though (I will be sharing those soon). Running really helps with that.

    1. I am thinking of getting the Conquest for day hiking. I have some La Sportivas that I love but my knees have started swelling after hikes for the first time. I refuse to quit though so perhaps something with more cushioning will help.

  6. My SIL is a distance runner. I admire anyone who can run for 2+ hours straight. I’m fairly fit, and have recently become addicted to weights. Seriously addicted.

    1. I was never a fast runner. I remember running for over three hours on my training runs. It sounds almost absurd now.

      I am glad you found something that you love. I used to lift weights a lot. I may go back to doing it again in the fall. I like to work out outdoors as much as I can though.

    1. That’s what I figure. If I never progress beyond running a few minutes here and there, it’s still worth it.

  7. I know people who run religiously but I’ve never ever seen a smile on a runner’s face. That said, I do interval running with Sam who kind of enjoys running about as much as me, i.e. not so much. But we do it and it keeps us strong and healthy. I guess if it were easy, it wouldn’t be called ‘work-ing’ out. 🙂

    1. You and my husband both. He has never been into running and every time he sees a runner he points out that their face looks pained 🙂 You are right on the “working” out part for sure.

  8. Looking forward to following your journey. I’m not a big runner because I have bad knees and a week hip, so I usually stick to walking, biking, or using the elliptical at the gym. Shoes do make all the difference though. I know when I got real running shoes, it made things a lot less painful! Can’t wait to hear what you think about these shoes.

    1. Biking and elliptical are definitely easier on the joints. I find that the elliptical gives me the same feeling as running but I am adverse to working out indoors. Ha, ha. I like biking but it’s not the same at all. You have to find what works for you though and figure out how comfortable you are pushing yourself. I am sure my knees will pay for this running later.

  9. I used to hate running to0. I finally discovered that I didn’t hate running. I hated running with people. Alone it’s awesome.

    I got away from it after getting tendenosis but I’ve thinking of going back to it. My preference is finding a safe place to run barefoot because I get terrible blisters, no matter what shoes or socks I wear. Generally after a 3 mile run (or walk) I’m washing blood out of my shoes.

    I’ll take this as a sign to find a place to run. I’m sure Honey would love to go with me.

    1. It’s funny you say that Pamela. The majority of my running has always been alone and that is part of what I love about it. My boyfriends were never interesting in going with me so it was an “easy” way to get some alone time to think.

      That sounds terrible about the blisters. I have been lucky to not get many while running or hiking. I would want to run without shoes too if I were you.

  10. Mom has been a runner since she was a little girl. There have been breaks here and there for various reasons, but she can’t lose the urge to run and the best runs are with dogs. Bailie runs with her now and they both love it. I run on occasion, but then only 2 miles or so. Katie used to run up to 15 miles with mom when she was training for a marathon. Mom tried the barefoot thing and it was a disaster, the shoes you have aren’t for her either, but she has found several brands that make shoes she loves these days and she just keeps running. She is addicted. Hope you and Gretel can keep it up.

  11. Katie ran 15 miles? That is amazing.

    I am glad your Mom found some shoes that she loves. There are so many to choose from nowadays that there has to be one for everybody.

  12. I’ve heard of those shoes, but I hadn’t heard that they were for specific problems. I’ve been walking a lot, and plantar fasciitis is really killing me. I’d like to try running, but I’m not sure my body is ready for it at this point. I’ll definitely look into those shoes more closely now, though!

    1. I wouldn’t as much say that they are for specific problems – like orthopedic shoes or something – but they were designed to save the joints of long-distance runners. I would definitely try them out. They feel a little strange and first but it’s kind of a wonderful strange 🙂

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