Hi there, gentle readers, I mean runners! I’m Jenn, and I’m here with greetings from the Rocky Mountain west where everyone drives a Subaru and really likes beer. We like beer so much, we have to do all these crazy things to work off all the beer we drink. Things like snowboarding and ice climbing and road bike racing at altitudes of ten-thousand feet. Luckily, I’m not here to talk about any of that, for I am not anything remotely resembling that type of remarkable athlete. No, I’m here to pay homage to the one person that no athlete can succeed without, their cheerleader.
It’s a given that everyone needs a cheerleader. Having someone to keep us on track and offer an encouraging word can mean the difference between failure and success in achieving our goals. A support system is crucial. And although the responsibility of change ultimately falls on us, our cheerleader helps us keep our eye on the prize and the ice cream out of the freezer. Of course some people, people like myself, need more than one cheerleader.
Running is not my favorite thing. In fact, exercise is not really my favorite thing. The looming threat of inherited heart disease and a mouth full of sweet teeth are my reasons for working out. I’ve experimented with different fitness activities and have found a few I enjoy more than others. So far, yoga and rock climbing are my two favorites.
Sadly, the climbing gym and yoga studio are not always convenient. Running is nice because I get a lot of value for my time and I can run almost anywhere. I also like it for the release it gives me; I can almost feel the stress evaporating from me with each drop of sweat that falls. Being a high-strung person, I really need that in my life. Still, it’s often hard for me to find the will to hit the pavement. That’s where my cheerleader comes to the rescue.
I’m super lucky in that my best cheerleader and my best running partner are combined in one amazing, furry package; my dog, Coco. She’s always ready for a run. She doesn’t buy ice cream, and she doesn’t judge me when I do. If we don’t make it outside for a run because I’m chained to my laptop writing literature essays, she curls up at my feet and keeps them warm. When I struggle to get into my favorite, and suddenly tighter, pair of jeans, she doesn’t say I told you so. She licks my face and tells me I’m pretty.
Best. Cheerleader. Ever.
She’s an amazing trainer, too. Her eagerness to get out there is the best motivation. She loves our runs. Sure, she’s a dog, and it goes without saying that she loves our runs, but this dog is a running machine. She’s a small nineteen pound mixed breed Italian Greyhound and Chihuahua I rescued nine years ago. Italian greyhounds were bred as sight hounds with extraordinary stamina. In other words, Coco can leave me in the dust. My sprint is her speed walk. She slows down for me, though, and lets me find my groove. When I hit my pace, she speeds up a touch. She pushes me just enough. Once she’s allowed off-leash, she stays quite a bit ahead, scouting out the path and urging me on.
She’s also a fantastic teacher in the school of life. Running with Coco, I’m reminded to appreciate the things that are easy to take for granted. Coco runs with abandon. She runs with pure joy. Her appreciation for the outdoors as she sniffs out every rock, weed, and tree never tires. She runs with a curiosity I have long since lost. She’s exploring. She’s looking for changes on our route; are there ducks in the pond, or maybe a crane? Are there any Red-Tailed Hawks riding the thermals overhead? Any fresh coyote tracks? She’s basking in the opportunity to wander, to be free for a little while. We all need the occasional reminder to stop, look around, and remember that every day on this planet is full of beautiful moments.
Our runs are never very long or far. Asthma and knee problems rear their ugly heads after the first mile and a half. I’ll never be a marathon girl; 5ks are my comfy zone. I used to feel guilty or inadequate about that, but Coco reminded me it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we live in each moment and appreciate its gifts. My cheerleader reminds me that running is an opportunity to reconnect with things that don’t plug into electricity. It’s an opportunity to listen to my rhythm, and get it back in sync. It’s a way to feed the soul and purge the body.
Dogs are so smart. They really are the best people.
Jenn is a wife, and mommy to four dogs: Coco, and three pugs who are decidedly NOT runners. She and Coco run near Boulder, Colorado, and are considering taking up trail running in the spring. She recently completed an intensive 8 week indoor rock climbing program that she blogged about here. She’s an aspiring novelist, and likes to blog, tweet, and instagram (occasionally in Klingon).