By Barbara J Little
I recently came back from running in the 55+ Games in Coquitlam with a bronze and three silver metals in Track & Field. It was beyond thrilling to stand on the podium with a feisty bunch of strong, fit women who hadn’t seen 60 in a while! I was flummoxed at my wins as I had never run track and my only goal was to not be last! Credit must go to the dogs that trained with me over five decades of running and the Dirty Feet Trail Series that forced me out of my comfort zone.
Except for Charlie Brown all the dogs were large, blond males. Ishie with-the-one-blue-eye, my first dog, was an extraordinary creature who set the bar high. He demanded long daily walks which morphed into hiking. Back in the seventies e led me on my first trips up Abbot Ridge in Roger’s Pass and into Eva Lake and taught me how to read his ears, tail and the hairs on his back that spoke of danger or the presence of others. When he died before his time Bickford, a Golden Retriever cross, took his place.
Embracing the 1970s’ aerobics frenzy I became addicted to endorphins and straight-to-the-brain shots of oxygen which led to running. Bickford became my running buddy and helped me train for the Jasper-Banff Relay when a 17-member team from Revelstoke’s Alpine Runners Club sent in 1981. A habit by then, running had become a moving meditation and a powerful anti-depressant. Still, on nasty, rainy days Bick pushing his head under my hand begging to go out was the kick I needed. Our runs kept him healthy for 14 years.
Casey, a Golden Retriever, was the smart one. He quickly learned to stay left by my side and to stop at intersections. Born to run he cranked things up as we went off leash and off piste looking for new terrain. He took me deep into the serenity of forests and along river trails. Together we worshipped in the Church of The Outdoors. His willingness to share his world while keeping me safe set in motion a lifetime love of the outdoors and running. Casey swam in or ran along the Columbia River with me almost every day for 13 years. It became his final resting place.
Now I run with my nine-year-old Buddha-boy Charlie, a Chocolate Lab. Serene and joyful he welcomes all-comers into the dog walking business. Running with a posse of three or four dogs on secluded trails has been a game changer. Their antics are endlessly entertaining as they move like a school of fish surging over the terrain. Still, running was again getting stale. When I discovered the Dirty Feet Trail Series runs in the Interior whole new landscapes and challenges opened up as Charlie and I ran park trails, through high grasslands and up mountains often resulting in falls and bloody knees.
I won my first five-kilometres at the Dirty Feet run in Revelstoke on Mount McPherson. This past summer I did six of their nine events taking first or second in all of them. Not because I was fast, heck no, but because there were so few gals in my age category 65 – 69. Nevertheless I was ecstatic and something caught fire.
Pushing way out of my comfort zone I set my sights on competing in the 55+ Games in Coquitlam in September. Conceived to encourage seniors to keep active and fit the Games offer over 25 sports from cycling to golf, soccer, ball, swimming, tennis and more. They will be held in Vernon in 2017 and are open to anyone 55 years and over.
I entered the Games on a lark and ended up medalling in the 10 km, 5 km, 800 and 400 metres and setting a personal best of 28 minutes for the 5 km. The months of running track and training were tough. Without the dogs nosing me out the door I would undoubtedly have given up.
Running has saved my life more than a few times. It has energized me, kept me young at heart, improved my agility, balance and stamina and, I believe, is helping push back the smog of Alzheimer’s that is beginning to nibble at me.
Next year I’ll be turning 70 and I can’t wait! The Goddess and good health willing, I plan on celebrating big time at a Women’s Wellness and Running Retreat in Moab in October 2017. I want to run the red rock dogless and unleashed!
BJ Little is a fourth generation Revelstokian, professional dog walker, retired journalist, and skiing and running junkie