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From The Couch To An Ultra Run With My Buddy

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted a dog. I grew up on a farm in Ireland and remember our childhood border collie, Tuts, so fondly. I left Ireland for Canada in 2014, and once I got my permanent residency I knew it was time to get one of my own.

In 2020 we picked Sekani out of a beautiful litter of Brittany pups. There were a number of reasons that I chose a Brittany: their endurance, health and temperament all being key factors.

Sekani, a Brittany Dog, sits on a rocky path.

Living in Calgary, Alberta with prime access to the Canadian Rockies I wanted a dog with endurance with the idea of taking them on multi-day backpacking trips. Little did I know that Sekani would have other plans, like daily runs and turning me into an ultra runner.

All puppies have energy, but a year into ownership I was having a hard time tiring him out. So, I decided to take up running. I had never ran a kilometer in my entire life. I played sports, but this was new territory for me. Who would want to run? Crazy people right? We started off small, going for 5km which was mostly me being dragged along by my dog who loved this new thing that we were doing together in the outdoors.

Sekani and Karl run together on a river path.

Over the next month or so we began to run more frequently. Sekani got a harness and a hands-free leash and we started running with pride and purpose. Because I wasn’t sure if Sekani had an off switch (he could run forever, if you let him!), I spoke to my vet about anything to look out for. He told me to trust my dog to let me know when he’s had enough and to regularly check up the following:

  • Paw pads for wear, cuts, redness. I apply a balm monthly to help his pads.
  • Nails to make sure they don’t wear down too much from pavement.
  • Test joints for soreness. Watch for dog tofor the dog's respondse to pressure applied by hand.

After that, we were off, and I loved seeing how much Sekani enjoyed it. I also began to notice huge mental health benefits for myself from being outside so muchfrequently. So much so, I started to set myself some goals. Can we run 10km? A half marathon? A marathon? An Ultra Marathon?

Karl and Sekani run using a hands-free leash on a dirt trail in the mountains.

By the end of September 2022 we had blown all of those goals out of the water. It was crazy to think that I had just started running 5 months earlier, and now I had completed an Ultra Marathon distance (50km+) in the mountains. Although I didn’t take Sekani with me on that one (I thought maybe 55km might be too much for him in one go), I started to research more on how people did run ultra-distances with their dogs. I found a whole bunch of people doing it, and using their tips we started upping our monthly mileage. By the end of winter, we were completing 100km together every month.

January 2023 rolled around, and I signed up to run a marathon in May. With the new marathon training, our monthly mileage totals doubled and we started hitting 200km per month frequently throughout the spring. Although after some runs I need a few days to bounce back (a 41km trail run comes to mind), Sekani is ready to go again within 24 hours, and recently we set a PR for him, running 55km in the mountains.

Karl and Sekani run by a beautiful, blue mountain lake.

Over the past year and a half I’ve enjoyed some amazing moments with my dog. From something as simple as him looking up to check in with me, or letting him off leash when we’re running through a dog park and seeing him run off to play with other dogs while I’m doing everything I can to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve now trained with Sekani over the past 18 months to get him to this point. There’s a running joke in our house that we’re not sure if I take Sekani for a run every day, or if it’s actually Sekani taking me for a run every day. All I know is that I am super lucky to have a dog and friend as amazing as this guy.

So what’s next for Sekani? Treats and belly rubs of course!

Two images of Sekani, side by side. One is Sekani looking up at the camera, the other is Sekani standing on a rock.

Note from Ruffwear: if you are interested in running with your dog, no matter your skill level, explore our How To Run With Your Dog page for tips, tricks and a 4-week training plan.