Fit pups and their peeps

by Ellie Butterfield

RESOLUTION-MAKERS PACK THE gyms and streets this time of year certain this will be the year of change for them. No one is more excited about the prospect of more walks and fitness than their animal friends.

Amelia Jazwa is a fitness enthusiast and instructor at Decatur Pure Barre. She says her dog, Nala (see below), is “my go-to hiking buddy and walking and running partner. She had ACL surgery this fall so had to take some time off, but she will be ready for springtime hikes and jogs.”

That spirit is contagious among Decaturites as evidenced by their annual January Run with the Dogs race, a 5K fundraiser for school athletics. Bethany Atkinson, chair of the 2019 event, said “The run started 14 years ago as run with the dogs because of the Bulldogs mascot of the middle and high school. Someone happened to bring their dog, and it grew over several years until bringing your dog was a main part of the organized event.”

Now the event is as much for the pups as it is for the humans. There is a one-mile puppy trot in addition to the 5k competitive race. Some locals even bring their dogs in sweaters just to watch.

It’s one of the few races dogs are allowed and even encouraged to participate in. Atkinson summed up the spirit of the participants when she said she enjoys the event because, “I love sports, and I love dogs.”

Since they are the beneficiaries, student-athletes share responsibility for setting up, providing cheering directional and cleaning up after the event. This year teams participating included cross country, lacrosse, soccer, football and more.

Adam Pinsley, a member of the boys lacrosse team coaching staff and the artist behind each year’s “face of the race” artwork, said the staff encouraged its players to volunteer because “it’s good for them, this [race] is really for us.”