Canadian Geneviève Baril and canine companion Flare are among the top cross-country running duo in the world.
Baril and Flare finished 11th overall in the ‘women’s elite 3.8K’ division, which is done twice (for a total of 7.6K) over the span of two days, covering the cross-country course in a combined 23:05.61. (The first run was done in 11:33.26 and the second run was done in 11:32.35.) “Flare and I never competed in an international race in Europe so I didn’t know where we would be in the field,” she says. “I’m very happy we were 11th.”
Worlds – officially the IFSS World Championships Dryland 2017 – were held in Szamotuly-Kozle, Poland, approximately 45 minutes from the city of Poznan, with the finals on Nov. 26.
Canicross is cross-country running with a dog, a sport that continues to grow in popularity in Canada, particularly in Quebec, though is better known in Europe, according to Baril. (The top-10 elite women are from European countries.) The Bromont, Que. resident raced with her dog Flare, a two-year-old (almost three) black Labrador.
Baril says that running with a dog, attached by the waist to a harness via a bungee, can be up to 20-25 per cent faster than running without a dog. Flare led the way but Baril was able to control the direction using cues.
As there were other divisions – like bikejoring, biking with a dog – at the world championships, the course got chewed up over the course of the weekend. Canicross was one of the final events on the championships’ schedule meaning the course was particularly mucky. The format was time-trial rather than a mass start like a traditional running event.
Travelling with Flare was difficult, Baril says. It’s expensive, plenty of organization is involved and certain documents are required to travel to Europe.
She’s a professional dog trainer in Bromont, where she owns Sirius Sports Canins, a training centre, named after another one of her dogs, Sirius, who was hit by a car and injured and is now retired. Baril has been in the sport of canicross for approximately six years, with a start in 2011, back when canicross races in the area had 20-30 entrants. Now, Canadian canicross races can have upwards of 250 people, according to Baril. (Sirius Sports Canins organizes races too.)
Prior to worlds, Baril and Flare were coming off their best result to date. The two won the 2017 Bristol Dryland Canadian Championships in late October in Bristol, Que. Baril’s partner, Benoit Talbot, who was in Poland, was fourth in the men’s canicross race at the national championships.
Baril says she hopes Bromont will one day host the world championships.