First annual event introduces new competitors to the world of dog-powered sports

Participants taut it as competitive, yet welcoming The first annual Run Dawg Run Festival recently held at the Olympic Sports Complex at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, Lake Placid, New York was a huge success despite one day of inclement weather.Organizers Sara Vanderwood of the Down East Sled Dog Club and Jason Sperry of the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club were extremely pleased with both participation levels and sponsor support. “In terms of the number of competitors and the level of sponsor support we received, we are very happy,” Sperry said. “First year events are always difficult because one doesn’t know what to expect. We were realistic with our projections and in most cases matched, or even exceeded them.”Saturday’s heavy rains kept some spectators away, but those who attended were treated to some exciting racing. Ed Clifford from Raymond, New Hampshire ran away from the competition in the men’s canicross, 2 dog-scooter and 1-dog bikejoring as he prepared to represent the United States in the International Federation of Sled Dogs Sports Dryland World Championships in Italy later this month. Jessica Doherty of Central Square, New York stood atop the leader board after Saturday’s heat of the 4 dog rig class, but Ed Clifford was able to refocus his team and turn in a faster Sunday heat, taking the overall 4-dog rig title.Plattsburg, New York resident Robin McGee and her Australian Sheppard Sydney, bested the competition to win the women’s canicross and ran the lead-off leg for the 2nd place Lead Dog Challenge relay team. It was Robin’s first dog-powered sports event. When asked what she thought about the event, she replied, “What a great way to enjoy my sport of running with my best friend, too! Everyone was so friendly and helpful, I didn’t feel like an outsider. I currently participate in other dog sports, but this was a whole new world to me. It was great fun to see another way I could enjoy being with my dog.Another Plattsburg resident, John Sims, also competing for the first time, finished 4th in the men’s canicross with his 16 month old Border Collie Finn, and led Team Nooksack to a 3rd place finish in the relay. Jeff Erenstone, the hometown favorite, finished 3rd in men’s canicross against some stiff competition. After Sunday’s competition Jeff was seen trying his hand at the scooter with his dogs Sucia and Shuksan.The race drew competitors from all over the East including, Maine, Massachusetts Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Ontario and Quebec. Aleksandya Panyukhina from Russia also attended the event finishing 3rd in the women’s canicross and running the lead leg for the 4th place relay team. Sasha, as she is known, is the 4-dog Russian Junior Champion in Nome-style racing and is living in the US as an exchange student.The rest of the placings were a mix of well-known dryland participants and people new to the sport. The organizer’s hope of getting new people involved came to fruition as nearly half of the 58 participants were first-time dog-powered sports competitors. Murielle Ovenden of Ontario, who is new to the sport, had an impressive run in the bikejor with her Bouvier, Marley. In response Murielle said, “I had been training on the bike with Marley for six months with skijoring in mind but never thought we’d get to enter a bikejor race. I absolutely loved it and think I’m hooked, lot of fun on the trail. I only regret I couldn’t stay for the relays on Sunday.”Organizers partnered with the Tri-Lakes Humane Society for the featured event of the festival, the canicross. A portion of proceeds went to support the no-kill shelter. A $250 donation is being made to the shelter on behalf of the festival.The organizers will be sending out surveys in the coming weeks to both participants and sponsors to gather feedback for future events. “The feedback we receive will be invaluable in planning for next year’s event. We want to do everything we can to satisfy both the people competing in the event and those making the event possible; the sponsors,” Vanderwood said. “We believe this event has incredible growth potential and we look forward to next year.”The organizers wish to thank all those who participated, volunteered and sponsored the event. Without the overwhelming support of so many, the event would not have taken place. They are especially thankful to Mary Alice Jansky and Eagle Pack Pet Foods for their title sponsorship, and to Harris Dunlap and Sally Bair who volunteered as Race Marshall and Assistant Race Marshall respectively.For a complete description of the festival and results go to Vanderwood207-485-4945


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