Interview with a Canicross Champion – Sarah Pepper

This blog is a short interview with our current Senior Female European Canicross Champion, Sarah Pepper. We decided to pick her brains to see if we could find out a bit more about what it takes to become a champion and to see if we could get any tips from her.

What are your dog sporting achievements to date?

Senior Female Canicross UK Champion 2013, European Female Canicross  Champion 2013 Porrentruy Switzerland, 1st female at the Karnten Lauft event in Austria. I haven’t been running that long about 2 years now, so to achieve these results is amazing.

Winning the European title in Switzerland, Sarah & Rolo
Winning the European title in Switzerland, Sarah & Rolo

Tell us a bit about your dog/s

I have three dogs, Simbah aged 5 Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rolo aged 2 German Shorthaired Pointer and Diesel aged 9 months German Shorthaired Pointer. Rolo is my running dog, he got me into running as I didn’t run before I had him. He is a mental GSP and absolutely loves racing, which he shows by screeching his head off on the start line. Rolo is a nightmare if he hasn’t had his run and won’t leave you alone until he has been. He is very strong and it has taken me nearly a year to learn how to cope with him (29kg!) pulling on the downhills.

Sarah & Rolo in action at the recent Checkendon Challenge event - Photo courtesy of Houndscape
Sarah & Rolo in action at the recent Checkendon Challenge event – Photo courtesy of Houndscape
 Your favourite place to train or compete?
I love competing abroad as the terrain and courses are different from the UK (less rain & mud!). The UK races are very friendly and social we eat cake and have a great laugh. I have made some great friends from these events who live hundreds of miles away but tend to see them every month at the races. We have travelled to Austria, France and Switzerland this season competing.
Austria was the craziest event I have ever done as it was part of a big marathon event, so all 200 canicrossers started altogether in the start shoot with a motorbike filming us in front.
I am lucky that I live in Cornwall so I have lots of places I can train. We normally vary our training between the woods and the dunes at the beach.
We have just come back from the French Alps and have been training the dogs in the snow which is amazing and helps my fitness with this seasons races.

Your favourite bit of kit and why? 

Non-stop Dogwear as I am sponsored by them. It is the best equipment as it is designed by the people who are the best in the sport. I use the Freemotion harness on all our dogs, this harness is designed to allow the dog to breath as the elastic straps move when the dog is breathing heavy. This is also good as running with the dog has a high pulling point, so this harness sits flat instead of pulling the dog up and restricting his breathing.

I wear the Non-stop running belt which sits low so doesn’t put pressure on your lower back. It is great for down hills when you have a strong pulling dog like Rolo, as you can go with the force instead of fighting it. It is light and comfortable. The running line is also light and has elastic weaved into it and doesn’t burn your hands.

Sarah with Rolo and her other Non-stop UK team mates, Jason Pascoe with Simbah and their third dog Diesel, plus Kim Mazzucca (UK, European and World Veteran Champion) and Mamoot
Sarah on the right with Rolo and her other Non-stop UK team mates, Jason Pascoe with Simbah and their third dog Diesel, plus Kim Mazzucca (UK, European and World Veteran Canicross Champion) and her dog Mamoot

Any training or other tips for people starting out in the sports?

For people who are starting out I would suggest that they join a local canicross club on their training runs as this will help the dog interact with other dogs who do the sport. This encourages the dog to pull especially if they see others doing it. Races are very beginner friendly and most have have-a-go classes.  There are lots of people with experience and will give you help and advice.

For training the biggest advice I can give someone is, that if you train you dog to run in a harness, every time you put the harness on make sure you are doing fast runs. Don’t use the harness for walking as this gives the dog mixed signals. We train our dogs off lead so we do lots of free running with them, this helps them gain speed naturally and then 2-3 times a week we will do some harness runs which are hard fast pace.  This then helps gain strength and also is a great way to train yourself.
As you can see Sarah has some great advice but I don’t think we can all be as naturally talented as her when it comes to running! If you’d like to meet Sarah in person and ask any other questions you might have with regards to the dog sports, Sarah will be on our Crufts stand 174 in Hall 4 Friday 7th to Sunday 9th March as part of K9 Trail Times’ mission to raise awareness of the dog sports and that ‘Active dogs are  happy dogs’!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wynne Symington

    A request regarding Sarah Peppers interview. I administer the GSPA web site and we wish to include other activities such as canicross. I have an article to upload but no images as yet. Would it be possible to use the one of Sarah running with Rolo and maybe the one of the awards which shows the three gsp’s?

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