Lately I’ve been doing a lot of running with a dog–not mine but a close friend’s eight-year-old Golden retriever. It’s been years since I have consistently run with a canine companion; between 1998 and 2002 I logged also sorts of miles (and one memorable race) with a yellow Lab named Komen, but other than a few token jogs with a partner’s adoptee, a notoriously lazy German Shepherd mix named Soup, I have run either alone or bipeds since then.
Nubble (below, right, as a puppy), like a lot of retrievers, is primarily a swimmer. When I first took charge of part of her days last month, Nubble had never run an “official” step in her life. But she was not overweight or otherwise decrepit, so I was able to start her comfortably at an easy mile, and she’s now handling six-milers at 7:00 pace or faster with ease. (She also likes the 10- to 15-degree [Fahrenheit] weather more than I do.) So while she’s perhaps not as constitutively inclined to running as Komen (below, left), she’s doing very well–and gives me a reason to keep active myself in the absence of definitive running goals.
More importantly, this spate of canine companionship has reminded me of possibly the best use of an expensive–and vocationally superfluous, as it happens–education in math and physics: the creation of the Labradometer.
Komen was running up to 18 miles at a time (usually less than half that and never more than a few at a time in the summer) in trails before he was a year old. I couldn’t help but notice that he, like all four-legged creatures, broke from what amounted to a fast walk (maybe a “canter” in horse-speak; I plead ignorance and apathy) into a legitimate run in which all four legs were off the ground at given points is his stride cycle.
One day, I got the idea to take Komen to a track and run 100-meter stretches at a variety of paces with him neatly alongside. After maybe twenty such trials, I was able to determine that Komen broke from a trot into a run at speeds equal to or greater than 24 seconds per 100 meters–just under six and a half minutes a mile (100 meters is very close to 1/16 of a mile).
Since Komen was by then full grown, I knew from that day on that if we were running together with him not straying ahead or lagging behind, and he was actually running, then we were doing 6:20 pace or better. More often, we probably ran my usual easy-day pace of 7:00 per mile or so. (We once ran a 5K road race at 5:33 per mile).
And that’s really it. Someone once called me brilliant for coming up with this, but that’s going a little too far and this person was most likely trying to get me into bed or something. Still, I was–and still am-at least a little smug about the whole undertaking.