It’s not so easy to hit snooze when my alarm rings at 5 a.m. because as soon as he hears the sound, he’s panting around the room ready to go. However, he knows the routine. He has to wait for me to get dressed, gather my gear, and get through my warm-up. He waits by the door until I’m finished, knowing that as soon as I grab my reflective vest and headlamp, it’s go-time. Then he rotates in circles by the door until I can corral his head into his collar. His excitement makes him the perfect running buddy.

His name is Harley. He’s my dog, but he’s also my best friend and favorite running partner.

I have never seen him unexcited to run — he has the motivation of an Olympic athlete. He has the endurance, too. He can go 3, 5 and even 8 to 10 miles without showing any signs of fatigue.

He loves being outdoors. The sounds, the smells, the sense of adventure — they drive him wild. I love watching him look back at a rustling noise he heard off the path, look up to the trees because a squirrel darted up one, or bury his nose in the dirt in search of some unknown creature (okay, only sometimes do I love this one).

Even better, he distracts me from the distance, weather and fatigue. Mostly because I have to make sure he stays focused and on the path (he really loves digging that nose of his into the ground), but he also distracts me with his pure joy in the activity. He reminds me of children on the playground, running around without a care in the world.

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Harley is intently distracted by a noise … maybe it’s a squirrel!

He’s the runner that I aspire to be, free of worries over pace or other goals. He runs just to run; he runs because I run.

He likes the leash to be tight, with him leading the pack. Hills are now much easier to conquer. Ascending with him feels like the slow ascent of a roller coaster; I just hold on and let myself be escorted to the top. What we really love, though, is charging downhill as fast as we can (he’s always faster).

Harley and I got close once we started running together. We found our rhythm as dog and owner. We learned the other’s pace, schedule and limits. For example, I now know that Harley will typically pee once and poop twice between miles one and two — a fun fact for all my readers.

It’s only been a few months since I rescued him, but, even at 5 years old, he’s learned so much with me each morning. He now pulls less, knows to only stop to use the bathroom, and generally responds to my calls of “Come on!” when he’s thinking about burying his nose in the dirt. He’s still far from perfect in terms of behavior, but he’s my perfect running partner. It’s the added excitement mixed with a bit of craziness that makes him so wonderful.

It’s never a bad run with Harley in tow.

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His happiest of faces with ears all the way down!
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