I have been a runner in some capacity for nearly 20 years. I’ve suffered injury, I’ve gone through periods of boredom with my regimen, and I’ve run a slew of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and trail races. About five years ago I underwent a dramatic change in the way I think about running, however. In the past, it was all about times and how well I was performing. Now, my running is much more focused on why I’m out there and my experience. This was, in part, due to observing my two dogs who periodically join me on my runs. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Running is really fun. Like, really fun.

After running for so long, it’s easy to simply float along in the doldrums. You stop pushing yourself to achieve. You get bored with your routine. You forget why you’re actually out there in the first place. But watch a running dog, who is experiencing pure bliss. I allow my dogs to sprint the first few minutes of any run, because I just can’t bare to subdue their passion for being outside and experiencing the excitement of hitting the pavement. They make me laugh and smile during our runs together and have taught me one thing – running should be fun. If you’re not out there having fun, then why are you out there in the first place?

Sometimes You Have to Forget About Times and Stop to Smell the Roses.

I’ll admit that it kind of annoys me that my older dog Daisy wants to smell each and every bush, tree, stick, blade of grass, flower and trash can along our running route. But she has also provided me with an important lesson – sometimes you just have to let go of times and immerse yourself in the environment around you. This goes back to the first lesson – running is fun!

With Age Comes Challenges, But Running is Still Awesome.

Daisy is 9 now. When I first started running with her she was just a pup with unlimited energy. Now she chugs along at a much slower pace – 10 minutes per mile, to be exact. At first, it was difficult for me to accept that she has slowed, but the reality is that she’s probably in her 60s or 70s in human years. She could even be suffering from arthritis. I’m 34 and have noticed that in the past few years I’m a bit more susceptible to injury than I was in my teens and 20s. This has been frustrating for me because it has sometimes inhibited my ability to run. However, no matter how slow I’m running, I’ve made a pledge to still go out there and do it. Like Daisy, I’m committed to making this a lifelong sport.

So there you have it. Dogs are infinite in their wisdom. And they also make good running buddies!