A dog lover has added a canine twist to the traditional three legged race by organising a run where the competing teams will rely on six.
Civil servant Neil Robinson is planning Northern Ireland’s first “canicross” event - a cross-country fun run where dogs and their owners will sprint, jog or walk together.
With pets attached to their humans with either traditional leads or using waist belts and bungee lines, the Waggy Race at the National Trust’s Castle Ward estate in Co Down in March is open to dogs of all shapes and sizes, with different categories to suit slow and faster paces.
Mr Robinson, who along with his wife Ruth runs regularly with their dog Zola, explained that canicross is already growing in popularity in other countries, having first originated in colder climes.
“Ruth and I both run, so we chose a breed of dog that we could run with - enter Zola, the Siberian Sled dog,” said the Lisburn man.
“We bought a racing harness and waist belt and line, then discovered by chance that running with your dog is an actual sport that started in Eastern Europe as a means of keeping sled dogs fit out of season.
“This sport has spread to Great Britain, where nearly 40 races per year are run as a league, but hasn’t reached here.
“We saw it as a great opportunity to organise over here - and the Waggy Races concept was born.”
The 33-year-old said running with dogs was not only good fun but was also a great way of achieving personal best times.
“Your dog is the perfect running companion - they will run at your pace, never miss a session, always be enthusiastic and even pull you along when you are tired,” he said.
While entry to the fun run is open to dogs aged one or over, Mr Robinson urged owners to consider the suitability of their pets.
“There is no breed restriction or upper age limit but common sense should prevail - some dogs are better runners than others,” he said.
“Do not enter with your 15 year old, 20 stone Bull Mastiff who struggles to walk from the kitchen to the living room.
“Similarly, if you are a high level athlete, do not drag your miniature Yorkshire Terrier around the course. We recommend that anyone in doubt should consult with their vet.”
The Waggy Race will be staged at Castle Ward on Sunday March 23 at 10.30am.
For more information or to enter log onto www.waggy-races.com