The Road to Stonehenge – Half Marathon Training (Canicross Style)

As the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Neolithic Marathon and Half Marathon approaches I am beginning to wonder what possessed me to do the CaniX Half Marathon this year, then I remember… A good friend of mine recently lost her Staffy ‘Ronnie’ to Canine Epilepsy and I wanted to challenge myself to do something to show my support for her and her dogs. The Animal Health Trust has been the charity CaniX have supported this season and it seemed appropriate in so many ways that I raise funds for them as they fund research into Canine Epilepsy among many, many other things.

Ronnie is on the right in this picture, accompanied by Reggie at a CaniX race - Photo courtesy of CaniX, Olwen Middleton and copyright Chillpics
Ronnie is on the right in this picture, accompanied by Reggie at a CaniX race – Photo courtesy of CaniX, Olwen Middleton and copyright Chillpics

I haven’t really given myself enough time to train for this challenge, as I hadn’t run more than 5 miles in 2013 when I signed up and in spite of doing a lot of long distance training in 2010, the furthest I’d canicrossed since then was 8 miles. I have every faith in my dogs being able to manage the half marathon but will I?!

The starting point for me to find out whether I could manage it or not was a local canicross run organised through my own group Cotswold Canicross, which is a group of friends of mine who regularly meet up for a social run somewhere.

I set up a 12 mile run around the local Cotswold Water Parks and did my usual mid-week runs leading up to the 12 miles on the Saturday. I always take water for the dogs with me on anything over 5 miles and sometimes even less when the weather is warmer. I am well equipped from previous challenges with a back pack containing a camelbak for me, water bottles, bowl, first aid supplies for the dogs and the obligatory poo bags with somewhere to store full ones if a bin can’t be found!

I was joined on the run by two friends and we enjoyed a lovely sunny, spring morning which incorporated part of the Thames Path en route. The dogs (as predicted) coped absolutely fine with the upping in miles and although I would not normally recommend going straight from 5 miles runs to a 12 mile run, I am sure our previous fitness (20 mile training) still helps us with increasing the distances now. I am always very careful to ensure the dogs’ paws and joints are not put under too much pressure by keeping to off road routes and stopping regularly to check them over for any signs of wear and tear. I also use Pawz dog boots (more information can be found here: to protect them when I know the route may be hard going on their paws.

A blurry shot from the Thames Path!
A blurry shot from the Thames Path!

I felt quite confident after this run that I could probably complete the 13.1 miles (21 kms) but to be sure I wanted to fit in another long run two weeks before the half marathon, so again I appealed to my running group friends and arranged a 13 mile run around a picturesque part of the Cotswolds known as the Coln Valley. I was a little nervous as I turned my ankle the week before and it had been niggling me on my shorter runs (it’s an old injury and it saps my confidence massively if it rears it’s ugly head again!) but I thought better to find out sooner rather than later if it was going to pose a problem.

With the run arranged and a few lovely people to accompany me, we set off on a rather sunny Saturday afternoon to complete the loop. Some friends had also joined us on mountain bikes as there were a few quiet roads and they offered to head and tail the canicrossers so we could be sure of our safety. This arrangement worked perfectly and although the temperature was creeping up above what I would consider ideal for running (it was around 14 degrees) we simply walked where we felt the dogs were warm and carried litres of water and collapsible bowls to make sure the dogs were kept comfortable.

One of the natural points on the Coln Valley run - I am getting a bit of a reputation for deep water on the routes!
One of the natural water points on the Coln Valley run – I am getting a bit of a reputation for deep water on the routes!

I did find that near the end of the 12.8 miles, Judo was looking sore on his back paws which has never happened before. It’s always been his front paws that suffer due to the friction of him pulling on the tough ground but luckily I keep plenty of pairs of boots in my backpack and I just popped a pair on to save his pads for the last couple of miles. I am concerned that with the reports of flinty trails for the Stonehenge Half Marathon he will need all 4 paws protected, so I will be doing all our training runs between now and then with him fully booted up so he gets used to the feel of back paw boots too.

So that’s it now, a couple of longer distances under our (canicross) belt to ensure we can complete the distance and our previous experience of the longer distance training for fueling our bodies all refreshed and revised, we are as ready as we can be in a short time frame to tackle the event on the 5th of May. There’s still time for anyone who wants to support us and the Animal Health Trust to donate through my JustGiving page here:

All support is greatly appreciated and I’d like to thank those who have already donated on the page for my challenge.

For more information on the run itself look here: and specifically for the canicross entries here:

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