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A dog's not just for Christmas - Britta Sendlhofer, Sophie & Jess

by Britta Sendlhofer
Thursday 28th February 2013

Running with Dogs: In this new series of articles Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade will be introducing tales from dedicated runners and their four-legged friends. In this article Run247 editor Britta Sendlhofer ponders on the part her dogs played in her running career

It's taken me a long time to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard!) on this subject. It's not that I don't have a lot to say on the topic - without doubt, my best running memories include my long time running partners Sophie and Jess - two Border Collies who's enthusiasm for running was boundless!

The reason why I was struggling to get started on the subject is that I am currently neither running very much nor have a dog that could join me, should I decide to put on my trainers to bank a few training miles!

Going back some 13 years, I am no longer sure what came first, the Border Collie or the fellrunning! The two for me have become inseperable! The joy of exploring my local hills, trails and tarns with my two black and white furry pals without doubt changed my life!

The dogs gave me both a reason and also the confidence to just pack a map and a few essentials and head out there - no matter what the weather, the time of day or the state of my fitness.

Sophie and Jess didn't care much about whether it was pouring with rain, unbearably hot or whether we were ploughing through a foot or two of snow! They didn't mind much whether I just managed a quick half an hour or whether we were out for the day! Their longing looks and restless pacing made sure though that for many years I ran almost daily. On the 'rest days', active recovery was the key - we would walk and play for hours instead.

My two pals were all the motivation I needed to get out for a run or two a day! Their faithful companionship was a pleasure and an honour. I think it was because of the dogs that I stopped running on the roads and instead started to turn to the fells!

Border Collies are very clever dogs who learn incredibly quick, but they didn't turn into the perfect running partners all by themselves! It took a lot of time and effort to teach them to stay close, not to chase, how to climb stiles and gates and to respect traffic. Over the years we became a great team though.

There were few races which allowed dogs, but Sophie and Jess came along on all the training runs and route reccies, Sophie particularly talented at finding clever shortcuts. They accompanied me on many LDWA events and they came along for the first 30 plus miles of the Lakes 50 race in 2008. I could fill a book with the many tales of our outings - blizzards and storms; cooling off in lakes and tarns on hot summer's days; rescues of local wild live and farm animals; spectacular sunrises and sunsets...

My favourite memory though is of a run along the Cumbria traverse - a 30 odd mile journey over some of Lakeland's finest fells and passes. My boyfriend Ben had dropped me and the dogs off at the start at Broughton Mills at some ungodly hour in the morning. He would leave the car for me at Keswick, the endpoint of this run. Navigation didn't get off to a great start, but once on the fells I could get rid of the map and enjoy the sunshine and clear blue skies, with the route easy to make out for many miles ahead!

For just over 12 hours we ran (and walked): The most beautiful September's day, although maybe a little hot. There were the most amazing views and we met some lovely people along the way. We enjoyed the packed lunch overlooking the Lakes and climbed slope after slope, legs getting heavier and steps shorter as the day went on. Sometimes we rested in the shade.

When we trotted into the centre of Keswick that evening I had a lump in my throat - tiredness, a sense of accomplishment and huge gratitude towards the dogs who had, without a whimper of discontent, stayed by my side all the way and without whom the day wouldn't have been any fun!

The dogs slept well that night (and much of the next day)!

It is hard to explain what an impact the company of my dogs seems to have had on my psyche. With them by my side I was ready for anything, no route seemed too far, no plan too crazy - they gave me a child like sense of adventure and confidence I had not previously known.

With old age Jess' eyes began to fade - she stayed close on my heels on technical ground, struggled badly on bright sunny or snowy days and she often preferred to be on the lead. Both of them tired quicker and our outings got shorter.

I knew it would be hard to 'retire' my girls from running and they had quite a few 'last outings' with the running club! It didn't do my motivation much good, and rather than head out for a run on my own, we'd just walk! As I was suffering from a long term achilles injury I was quite happy with this. The odd run on my own didn't leave me wanting more!

I am typing this some six months after the last run with Sophie and Jess. They didn't get to enjoy their retirement for long enough and have both left my side since. They have left a huge void.

I have continued to go out for short runs - just enough to tick over. I've borrowed other people's dogs and have entered races to try and find that spark - but it's not been the same!

In a few hours I will be collecting a little black and white collie pup! 'Rook' has been born and bred with the fells in his blood and I hope that, once he's grown into his paws, he will be my companion as I run over the fells yet again - and every now and again we'll pause on a summit as I remember those special days with the girls!


Part 1
Kirsty Reade
& Dingle



Part 2
Adela Salt
& Wilson


Kez & Kroi

Part 3
Sandra Bowers,
Kez & Kroi



Part 4
Nikki Kimball
& Darby


Part 5
Sophie & Jess



About The Author

Britta Sendlhofer

Britta, originally from Austria, came to live in the Lake District in 1990.

Always in love with the mountains, the local hills and fells have since been her favourite ‘playground’. She spends much of her spare time exploring the hills – no matter what the season or the weather – always accompanied by her two Border Collies.

While the fells and trails are her first love, Britta has also completed 10 road marathons, before moving up to ultra events. Her biggest achievements are a Bob Graham Round, the Himalayan 100 mile stage race,the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc race and the Lakeland 100.


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