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Mandy Williams  •  Culture •  18.08.2019 •  4 min read

Mandy's experience with spaniel Max at the Trophée des Montagnes canicross race

Nothing beats running with your dog. While I enjoy training with my spaniel Max, daily (or almost daily), I also love going away to race with him in other countries. For the last three years, I have been going back to the French Alps every summer to take part to the Trophée des Montagnes or ‘Mountain Trophy’, an internationally renowned event. Each year it sells out in minutes with long waiting lists, as people come from Canada, Brazil, USA and all over Europe to compete.

Sharing races and holidays together is amazing and we always come back grown from the experience.

If you would like to know more about Canicross as a discipline, read my article Canicross: Why nothing beats running with your dog!

Canicross isn't a stroll in the park.

Not only do I soak up the beautiful scenery during our stay in the French Alps, but I also indulge in the French bread and pastries! After all, with the effort and energy I expend during the 9 days of racing, I need plenty of food as fuel!

The Trophée des Montagnes is a challenging multi-day event where performance, endurance and perseverance are key. Individual runners’ race with their dogs for no less than 10 races over 9 days, including a night race. Add to that the altitude (the event is based at 700m in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeast France) and you've got a very demanding event!

Mandy and Robert with their dogs

Mandy running with her dog, Max

Mandy with her dog, Max

The races take the dogs and their human partners up mountains of 2,300m and on technical routes. And what goes up must come down, so there's a lot of fast descending too. Just imagine doing all this whilst attached to your dog by a canicross bungee and surrounded by over 300 other dogs. Truly unique!

In my category (Women V1) I faced professional canicross racers as the sport is well established and taken very seriously in Europe. Runners are allowed to enter the event with two dogs and swap between their dogs depending on the route and particular dog's strengths. I completed the event with one dog – Max – my trustee spaniel. Some of the dogs in attendance were large ones built for the sport (mainly German Shepard pointers), though any breed can compete as long as they pass strict vet checks and are fit to run.

Mandy running with her dog, Max

My favourite moment of the event.

My favourite race was new to the series in 2019, the 6th of the 9 races. It was then unknown to all, but it turned out to suit Max and I down to the ground. It was a 3.5mile run with the first half totally up hill – a 1,400ft climb over just under 2 miles. I don't need to say that it was a tough one! But we came into our own on the descent. In proper fell running conditions, we flew!

Max is trained to run by my side on descents and I totally trust him, so we went flying down the mountain together. The other racers struggled to hold faster dogs back on the steep sections, but there was no stopping Max and I! I'm not afraid to admit I cried with happiness and hugged Max to death after the race. We crossed the line in 2nd place and it felt amazing! A superb result for us and a race I'll never forget.

Learnings and results.

I was delighted to come 2nd in the 6th stage and after the 9 races we managed to finish 5th overall in the V1 Women category. As it was Max's first year, he had a steep learning curve as well as steep routes to run up. I'm really proud of him! Max is trained to run by my side or just behind me on the descents (so I can concentrate on not falling), While pull from the front on the flats (very few of these here!). I am delighted by his runs and so proud of his efforts with the fatigue accumulating.

Our next stop is the European Canicross Championship in Belgium as part of Team GB! 

Max is trained to run by my side on descents and I totally trust him, so we went flying down that mountain together.

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