We ran for the dogs on Sunday. It is ironic since it is the one type of living creature that causes the most anxious moments for runners. You give the ones on leashes, leading their humans around the block the widest berth. The stray kind are mostly docile, but not at four in the morning when they are woken up by a stray runner.
This Sunday I started much later than usual. Our “home” strays were up and a bit too friendly as always. Mostly when I set off, I am accompanied by three to five well-fed ones, (my wife is responsible for the feeding). As soon as they leave their territory for which there is an invisible line drawn two houses further on, the dogs of neighboring clans clash. Luckily I am well known and loved by them as well, so they let me run.
But this time I drove to the lake with my bike and then ran around it. About five kilometers in, one of the strays on the roadside decides that I look tasty enough to try to take a bite. I can recognize that look in a dog’s eyes and posture from a distance, but it does not faze me anymore. The old pretend-that-you-are-picking-up-a-rock routing works consistently. This time is no exception. Sometimes I have to even pretend that I am throwing it. This trick served me well through the years of running the Indian streets even when there are groups of dogs.
I have a memory of my brother and I jogging in Kuruman, where we grew up, and this little, white, woolly dog (I just looked it up, it is a Maltese Toy Poodle) was out of his gate and barking at us. There were no strays, but the neighborhood dogs could be scary for a little boy. Not this one though. My brother started running straight at it, and it lost all its bravado instantly. It ran for the gate and did not stop until it was safely at the back-side of the house. How we laughed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. We have a Daschund (not the miniature kind) called Treble. Yes, a sausage dog. If it stands on its hind legs, it can snatch something from the table. It is quite strong and sometimes pushes its way out of the gate before we can stop him. Needless to say, we have had to get a vet to patch him up several times after being bitten by strays. When it comes to other dogs, he is not one bit scared, but when someone enters our gate, you will find him cowering as far as possible from the danger.
Back to my run. It was drizzling for most of the way, and ten kilometers later I am back where I started. There is a banner up and a table where last-minute entries are taken care of. A coach and some trainers from a local gym instruct rows of runners in a warm-up session. Twenty minutes before our 7 o’clock starting time the rain begins in all earnest. I take shelter at the police post, but soon it is so tightly packed that I duck out again. It is the monsoon season, so even if it not raining and you run, you get wet. This is what I tell myself.
The coach decides that the rain is a good reason to get the race started on time so maybe a hundred of us started running. There is a small cash prize to be won, and everyone sprints the first few hundred meters. After the first bit, I start overtaking most of them again, but there are some further ahead. The stray dogs, who must be enjoying the coolness of the rain with us, runners, just watch and undoubtedly question our sanity. We thought the race will go till the barrier at the end which would make it almost 5k, but two volunteers turn as back just before two kilometers. That’s when I realize that if I want to try to catch them, I will probably not make it.
I turn the burner to the max and see my watch indicates that I am running at 3:30 minutes per kilometer. The rain is still falling hard. We run through pools of water. I overtake two guys, then another one. One madcap is running on the little wall that borders the stairs that lead down to the lake. It is uneven, but he runs fast. Finally, he succumbs, (sorry, buddy, it’s a dog eat dog race :-)) but there are more ahead of me. I see at least two, and they are too far to catch.
Now that the race is done, the rain stopped. I catch my breath, stretch a bit and then get back to my bike. I must not be late for church.
At home, my Strava account shows six achievements among others my best 2-mile time ever, my second best mile time and my second best one-kilometer time.
Now I just hope I do not get as sick as a dog due to running in the rain.
P.S. Maybe you are wondering who organized this event and how it would benefit the dogs? Those questions were asked on the Facebook events page. Some event management organization did it, but how the stray dogs would benefit is a mystery. I feel that the population growth of these dogs should be controlled for our and their own benefit. I hate having to bury the puppies when they die of hunger in streets. Out of a litter of six to eight puppies (which seems to be normal here), one or two grow up to be adult dogs. (In our street that statistic is probably different due to my wife…)