Your pup has been your loyal pacer, alarm clock, and morale manager on every single training run. Bringing him to race day every once in a while only seems fair.
While you’re soaking up the starting line adrenaline, your pup’s probably either moping at home or bouncing off the walls in an aid station somewhere. This season, save your number one training partner the FOMO and bring him along. Here’s a full calendar of dog-friendly racers to choose from.
Tails ‘n Trails Races
When: May 13
Where: Omaha, Nebraska
If you’ve got a soft spot for rescues, this is the race for you. All proceeds go to local nonprofits Pug Partners of Nebraska; Hands, Hearts, and Paws; and Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue. While the race may make giving back a piece of cake, the actual running isn’t guaranteed to be that easy.
“This is kind of a tough course for Nebraska,” says organizer Rachel Warne. You and your pup will have mile, 5K, 10K, and half marathon courses to choose from, all on the rolling terrain around Wehrspann Lake, mostly singletrack spiked with a series of relentless 100-foot rolls.
2017 represents the race’s third year in action, and as a younger event, it’s pretty laid back. There’s no cut-off time, and aid stations are well-stocked with water and snacks for two-legged and four-legged racers alike.
Canicross 5K Trail Race
When: May 27
Where: New Gloucester, Maine
You can thank the local mushers for this one. Eleven years ago, a group of Maine dog sledding enthusiasts put in a request for a dryland race. Erik Boucher, a race director for the L.L. Bean Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms, was more than happy to comply.
“The dogs add an electricity to the air,” Boucher says. In 2017, nearly 200 dogs and owners signed up.
“I’ve always found it amusing,” laughs Boucher. “To start the race, we ring a cowbell, and the people start running forward, but the dogs go in every direction.”
The initial madness gives way to wide, gently rolling swaths of trail, used for cross-country skiing in the winter, that cut through forest and farmland. Boucher recommends bringing in-shape dogs and lots of water, as late May can be pretty hot—even in Maine. Rest easy, though: There’s veterinary medical staff on-site, just in case. Not to mention an expert musher or two.
Coureurs de Dois Trail Run and Relay
When: June 10
Where: Kenosha, Wisconsin
With between one and four river crossings, this is a race for the retriever in your life. Take your mark in a wide, cross-country style chute that narrows and funnels competitors into a mix of forested singletrack and groomed trails just west of Lake Michigan’s shores. The route follows the Pike River and hops across it on more than one occasion. Splashdown crossings are optional but encouraged, water levels permitting. (Bridges offer alternative crossings on swift current days). The 2017 event includes 4-mile, 8-mile, 12-mile, and 16-mile races—all canine-friendly. Each one utilizes a different number of loops on the same four-mile course.
While he admits the dogs bring a little bit of chaos and a lot of extra energy to the mix, race director Brian Thomas maintains that he’s still happy to see them running, no matter how they complicate his job. You’ll find him stationed at the finish line, distributing belly rubs.
Moosalamoo Half Marathon
When: August 5
Where: Goshen, Vermont
“’Moose Hat‘ will certainly be worn during packet pickup to ensure everyone understands that this is supposed to be FUN,” says race director John Izzo on his website. Izzo takes a no-nonsense approach to getting too serious.
In fact, nonsense is welcome at the Moosalamoo races, and dogs are a big part of that. While the 36-miler is reserved for strictly human competitors, the 14-mile “heavy half” fully supports copious drool and tail-wagging on-course. The route is comprised of mostly technical singletrack, with 3,000 total feet of gain and a few sections of dirt track and logging roads to give your ankles a break. Nighttime is the only cutoff, but nearly everyone is feasting well before then.
“I feed everybody who shows up,” says Izzo when asked what makes the race special. He treats finishers to a full spread of burgers, hot dogs, salads, veggie burgers, and desserts. “And my wife makes seven batches of her famous baked beans.”
Rumor has it that there’s something in it for dogs this year as well; instead of medals, finishing canines will receive a toy.
Bonus: There’s free camping all around The Blueberry Hill Inn, right across from the ski center where the starting line is, and anyone craving a real bed pre-race will find the inn to be dog-friendly as well.
Park City Trail Series Half-Marathon
When: September 16
Where: Park City, Utah
If you and your dog have spent countless evenings flipping through race registrations, sharing mutual nerves about signing up for your first race together, this might be the one to convince both of you to finally take the next step. The Park City Trail Series is designed with new runners (and anyone interested in jacking up their distance this year) in mind. The season opens up with a June 5K and works upward, 5K at a time, to a September half-marathon, all dog-friendly. The 5K’s graded dirt roads graduate to switchbacks in the 10K, and the 15K tacks on a half-mile hill that you’ll also get to enjoy in the half. Don’t get too anxious, though—even the longest race sports only a modest 1,200 feet of gain.
These races are known for being meticulously well-organized with fully loaded aid stations and expertly maintained trails. That doesn’t mean it’s a starched and buttoned-up event, though; expect a relaxed, recreational atmosphere with a DJ (named DJ) who’ll make both you and your dog feel like you’re in the front of the pack the whole time.
The Pony Express 100
When: October 20
Where: Faust, Utah
On this historical stretch of the 1861 Pony Express route, Davy Crockett himself will be your guide. (Self-professed history buff and race director David Crockett says there’s no relation, but he’s sticking with the moniker anyway because it makes him memorable.)
This is one of the few hundos in the country that welcome dogs. The reason? It’s a remote course with no aid stations, so drive-along crews are available to give weary pups a break at any stage in the race.
Expect a small field on a fast course; there are only 3,000 feet of gain and 4,000 feet of loss over 100 miles. The Utah desert is flat and serene, a route for horses and cowboys under the widest sky in the West.
“You can see a long way and you just don’t see any modern structures. These lowlands remain untouched, and it still has that wild, old-western feel,” says Crocket.
Bring plenty of water and keep an eye out for antelope, wild horses, rattlesnakes, and “desert fairies,” which have been known to haunt the flats. Fortunately, the trundling of your crew’s minivan will probably keep the ghosts at bay. And if not? Well, that’s what a good guard dog’s for.
The Alternate Chili Trail Run
When: December 2
Where: Kansas City, Kansas
While most of the Trail Nerd Series running events are dog-friendly, this one might be the most fun. The Alternate Chili Trail Run takes on one ten-mile lap on the course of its more famous sister race, the Psycho Wyco Run Toto Run (also dog-friendly), and finishes dead-center in a chili-and-beer feast. Race Director Ben Holmes, who has 32 years of home brewing under his belt, has been known to show up with as many as 40 gallons of his own brew, and his barbecue chef son-in-law whips up enough chili to feed an army. (Your dog’s welcome to the chili, too, but we can’t guarantee you’ll want to ride home with him afterward. We’d recommend dog treats, also available at the finish line, instead.)
The course, which packs on around 1,800 feet of elevation gain in the form of steep, 300-foot “shark’s teeth” hills, is mostly singletrack and includes a 1.5-mile section Holmes’s dog Fester designed during an off-leash ramble.
Both dogs and humans get chips and bibs, and human runners take home a medal. As befitting of the race’s theme, it’s shaped like a chili pot.
Deception Pass 50K
When: December 9
Where: Deception Pass State Park, Washington
Squeeze in one last island vacation before the holidays. Over the course of 50K, you and your dog will gain 4,300 feet of elevation, cross back and forth between Puget Sound’s Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands on the Deception Pass Bridge, cross sandy beaches, and skirt the edges of seaside cliffs.
The Deception Pass 50K is dog-friendly in every sense of the term. For one, Rainshadow Running, the group that puts on the race, has welcomed dogs since their earliest days. Deception Pass also takes place in early December when temperatures are cool enough for comfortable endurance in a fur coat, and the dirt singletrack twists around a number of natural water features for easy drinking on the go. The course alternates between steep, technical terrain and smooth stretches, and you can cross the beach finish line and run straight into the sound if you want to. Well, you might not, but your dog definitely will.
Pro tip: This one’s a lottery, so drop your name in the hat online when registration opens June 28.
Have a favorite dog race of your own? Leave it in the comments below!