Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 18 Jul 2004 08:38:57 -0400

Lapping It Up


My favorite running partner came up lame last year and hasn't been back on the road since. But that doesn't mean he hasn't run in all that time. Runners find a way, especially this one.

This one was born to run. It's his whole reason for being.

Buzz is a greyhound. His breed was refined down to the single specialty of running extremely fast for the pleasure and profit of dog-racing fans.

His career on the track was brief and unspectacular. He passed his early racing tests well enough to start running for real at about 18 months.

But the hard realities of this business soon caught up with him. Racing under his original name, Veggie Boy, he finished last in four of his seven races.

Dogs aren't kept in the racing stables because they're fun to have around. His owner retired the dog who became Buzz and who found his way to us through an adoption agency before his second birthday.

"Slow" is a relative term. Buzz could sprint 500 meters (a lap and a straightway on a quarter-mile track) faster than most two-legged runners could cover half that distance.

So trained was he to run laps that he did this without being told. He didn't even need a track but made up one of his own that only he could see.

When instinct kicked in, he bolted into high gear and dashed invisible laps lasting for a minute or two. Satisfied with his interval session, he then dropped back to my pace that he could match at a walk-trot.

Buzz ran his sprint laps with tongue-wagging joy, barely aware of where he was stepping. One day a misstep into a grass-covered hole almost ended his running life.

He took a midair flip, landing with a severe sprain to a foreleg. Two months in a cast didn't fully heal the damage, and he still limps heavily on any hard surface.

But put him on dirt, grass or sand, and the limp disappears. The speed returns.

These days my favorite partner always makes the call on where we run because his choices are limited. He has changed where I run, and for the better.

Though I too am a retired track racer, running laps had for decades been an experience to avoid. My routes never repeated themselves (either on a day's run or within that same week). I ran single big loops or out-and-backs, which never looked the same when the direction changed.

Before, I chose my courses for variety and practicality, not for scenery or serenity. Buzz tagged along, until he got hurt and needed the soft footing.

The patches of natural ground where we now run are small, so we must repeat ourselves often during a run. Buzz thinks he has returned to the racetracks of his dreams.

Finally I've come around to his way of thinking. Any course this scenic, silent and safe is worth repeating -- not just many times a week but several times a day.


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