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Published November 20, 2011, 11:30 PM

Wagner: Man's best friend can serve as a reminder to enjoy the run

Bemidji, Minn. - Out on a run recently with my dog, I watched him as we headed onto a hiking trail and off the pavement.

By: Steve Wagner / Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

Bemidji, Minn. - Out on a run recently with my dog, I watched him as we headed onto a hiking trail and off the pavement.

The first section of the trail was uphill, and Riley charged right up it.

That got me to thinking that he and I are a good match since my philosophy is to take on hills with gusto. But then later, when we reached a long downhill section, he went cruising downhill to the bottom, almost out of sight.

My friends who I’ve been lucky enough to run hills with know that I love to bomb the declines.

The thought takes me back to a conversation on the first trip with friends to run gravel roads. One of them asked how I approach hills. In a book I read while preparing for my first marathon, the author advised to maintain equal effort on hills, accepting the pace will be a bit slower going up and a bit faster on the decline. As you crest the top, you feel powerful and have energy for the downhill, where you can take advantage of gravity. In races, it’s often the hills that make or break our performance and how we place.

All of this makes me realize that watching my dog can teach me a lot about how to run properly. Instinctively, animals know how to run.

And while Riley might get himself in trouble with me – darting into places he shouldn’t, splashing through puddles and laying down in the mud – his seemingly bad behavior reinforces another important lesson we can learn from dogs: They have fun romping around while running.

Non-running friends may find it hard to believe, but that’s one of the reasons we participate in the sport. It is one of the most simple, basic forms of fun. Sure, there are the obvious health benefits and the friendships we form with other harriers from a common bond. But it gives us the opportunity to explore our surroundings and challenge ourselves to improve from year to year. And those are two important reasons I keep putting one foot in front of another.

Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com.