Gone to the dogs

Has running gone to the dogs? Probably.

With the popularity of running at an all-time high, it’s fun to see the creative side of the sport. Some races encourage costumes, which have been a staple at some marathons for years, or offer unique distances or prizes. And there’s races like The Ultimate Beer Run series, Beer Mile World Championships and the North American Wife Carrying Championship.

There’s even races for canines and their owners, including the Dog Jog in Grand Forks. I’ve taken my pooches to races: Riley and I traversed the muddy trails of Beyond Running’s Filthy 5K in Moorhead, and Coby — when he was 3 months old — joined me for a 5K in Fargo.

Some dog races are highly competitive. Earlier this month, the State Street Mile in Santa Barbara, Calif., hosted the Dog Mile.

Josh Helton and his lab/pit bull mix, Bro, set a new record. Yes, his dog’s name is Bro. And the pair are the fastest human/dog combo in the world. Read this story to find out how the race unfolded for Josh and Bro on their way to a 4:15 mile.

It’s not a title that Coby and I will ever compete for. For the record, though, I’m the one holding him back because he’s one of the most athletic dogs I’ve ever encountered. And he love’s to run.

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Beyond the quirky races, there are several events aimed at raising money and funds for really good causes. In the summer, on almost any given weekend, you can find a 5K run/walk with a perfectly legitimate benefactor.

Since my main running goals have focused on marathons, my participation in smaller or shorter events often has been limited. But there are a few types of events that capture my interest, whether it’s a trail race with a unique setting, intriguing concept or simply different.

A mid-week race may not fit that definition, other than the timing of the event, but I like them because there’s simply not many of them. Take tonight’s Hillsboro 5K/10K, for instance. Race proceeds will go for equipment in the Hillsboro Fitness Center. Last year’s event drew nearly 400 runners, a pretty sizable crowd for a community race. Putting this event on a Thursday also helps organizers avoid competing with other events.

A call for action

In a follow-up report, ProPublica continues to flush out details about the Oregon Project and it’s storied coach, Alberto Salazar.

Quickly, it’s becoming clear that USA Track and Field and one or more federal government agencies need to launch a full inquiry to determine the validity of claims brought by former athletes and coaches affiliated with the program and coach.

Last week, Pro Publica wrote about its investigation into claims by former athletes accusing Salazar of breaking drug rules to gain a competitive advantage. After reading the piece, I shared my long-held belief that more and better testing needs to be standard at elite-level events.

The accusations unveiled by ProPublica won’t simply go away. These are the types of claims that demand an answer and can’t be swept under the rug.

Now, more former athletes have come forward and Mo Farah, the Olympic gold medalist coached by Salazar, wants answers. On Friday, the nonprofit investigative journalism outlet reported “three more former members of the Oregon Project have contacted ProPublica, bringing to 17 the number of athletes and Oregon Project staffers who have described to ProPublica and the BBC what they feel was inappropriate prescription drug use orchestrated by Salazar. Most declined to speak publicly because of the power Salazar and Nike hold in U.S. track.”

As noted in a blog post last week, the Lance Armstrong doping scandal and suspensions levied against some of the world’s best marathoners should be enough for the sport’s officials to get serious about testing. But that only addresses what needs to happen moving forward.

It’s time for USATF, the International Association of Athletics Foundations (IAAF is the world governing body for track and field) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, perhaps with help from other federal and state agencies, to begin asking some serious questions.