If you like to be active with your dog, canicross is the perfect sport for you! Everyone can do it - both proven runners and people who have never participated in competitions before. In this episode, Multiple World Champion Tessa Philippaerts from Belgium shares her tips on everything from how to get started to what to remember at a competition.
JEANETTE: Today’s guest was a Top 5 track and field athlete in Belgium. Now canicross is her main discipline, and today the three-time world champion will share some tips and tricks. Tessa Philippaerts from Belgium, welcome.
TESSA: Hi. Welcome.
JEANETTE: Thank you. First of all, can you tell us a bit what is canicross?
TESSA: Canicross is basically running with your dog, but you’re connected to your dog. The dog is not free-running, and the dog is wearing a special type of harness in which he can pull freely, and he’s connected to the runner by this elastic line. The runner is wearing a special type of belt. Usually they run basically anywhere they want. They can go off-road, they can run a little bit on the road.
JEANETTE: So it doesn’t need too much equipment. This is basically something everyone can do.
TESSA: Yeah, everybody can do canicross. It’s really easy. You just need basic equipment and a pair of running shoes, and then you’re good to go.
JEANETTE: How did you come into the sport?
TESSA: I was doing track and field from when I was 7 years old, I think, and I always hated to do the long distance running training that I had to do by myself. I really liked dogs, but after our last dog died, my father said, “No, we do not really want to have a new dog anymore. It’s so much time.” So I kept on nagging and nagging and nagging to get a new dog. My father saw I was struggling with my training and he said, “Yeah, maybe if I can buy you a new dog that can join you on your training runs, will you then go and do it more often?” I was like, “Yeah, of course. Of course I would love to have a dog to join me on my runs.”
We basically started to look online for which type of dog fit in with our lifestyle, and we stumbled on the whippet, because they’re pretty calm in the house and they’re active whenever they’re outside. They’re not the typical canicross dog, but by then I didn’t know anything about canicross, so it was okay.
After a while my father said he was looking on the internet, surfing, and he found this sport where you can run with your dog. He was like, “That’s something for you, canicross. Would you like to try it?” I said, “Yeah, we can go one day and try it.” So one race somewhere in Belgium –There we started. There was this small stand standing outside where they have all this equipment hanging and you could try it out, or you can buy it. We just bought instantly everything because I thought it was nice for running at home anyway.
Then we did the race, and I thought it was so much fun – even though my dog didn’t get anything about what she had to do. But yeah, it was so much fun to run with my dog. I remember I finished last place, but I didn’t care because it was so much fun. After that day, I think we went to every possible race. Then we got really stuck with canicross, and we got better and better during the years, so that was really cool.
JEANETTE: You also got more dogs.
TESSA: Yeah, because I think after two years of doing canicross, my father said “This is actually so much fun. Can I borrow your dog?” Of course, “No.”
Then he was like, “Okay, then maybe we can buy another dog.” So we bought a second whippet. Then he started to race as well with her.
From then on, we started to get more dogs after my whippet got injured when she was 4 years old. I was so sad. I remember I was just so sad, because she was actually really good for a whippet running in canicross. She had an injury on her shoulder which was n