The Colfax Marathon is an annual event that encompasses many races and every imaginable level of fitness. The event I participated in a couple weeks ago was the 5K—my first—where most participants walked, including yours truly. This 5K event follows a 3.1-mile loop around City Park in Denver. Because it is an attainable distance for humans and canines, many dogs accompanied their fitness-seeking people.

“The dogs were getting antsy, picking up on the excitement swirling around them.”

The variety of dogs on site stretched the imagination. Looking around, I found myself marveling at the disparity in size, color and temperament. And, once again, I wondered how this furry array could all be representative of the same species. There were sculpted Whippets, fuzzy Huskies, Labradors in all the colors, Great Danes on impressively long legs, and an amazing variety of mixed breeds with beautiful and comical results alike. It was an eyeful, to say the least. Have you ever seen a German Shepherd/Corgi mix? Imagine the head of a German Shepherd dropped onto the squatty body of a Corgi. On the beautiful side, there was a pointer mix that turned out looking like a sleek chocolate Weimaraner with white spotted hind quarters and amber eyes. All dogs, regardless of breed or size, were managed with a leash or harness and well-behaved, at least from what I observed. I saw no small dogs ill-affected by a Napoleon Complex and I saw no large dogs aggressively striving to be the leader of the pack. Pretty amazing considering that most were strangers to one another and suddenly thrown together in large crowds. There were 25,000 in attendance and distractions everywhere from unfamiliar smells and voices to sudden movements and alarming noises.

In our little team of seven, there were three dogs accompanying their participants. Rosy, a German Wirehaired Pointer, was friendly and sweet, if not a little anxious to get moving. There is a lot of standing around waiting for the race to begin. Then Chai, a Shiba Inu, a breed which I had never encountered before. She was timid, but found trust in being by my side, her foxlike face trained my way in a pitch for attention. She knows who to turn to for some love, and I am, admittedly, a sucker for the sweet face of a pup. Last, but not least, there was Reyan, a Yorkiepom (Yorkie, Pomeranian mix), who was a pint-sized bundle of energy. Looking at his 3-inch legs, I wondered how he could walk the duration, but his human assured me that they covered 3-4 miles a day and he could do it easily. I likened my reaction to the same as hearing how far hummingbirds migrate each year. It baffles the mind. Reyan’s human wore a kangaroo-like side pouch to plop him into if his legs got tired. This eased my concern somewhat, but it came back again when Reyan was on the ground making it clear that he was smaller than the average running shoe surrounding him.

After a couple hours of milling around on the grass, we all lined up on the pavement between the temporary barricades, moving closer to the starting line with each wave. The dogs were getting antsy, picking up on the excitement swirling around them. People were stretching, taking sips of water, and applying sunscreen. When we arrived at last at the starting line, the excitement was palpable in humans and canines alike. At last, the start was counted down over the loudspeaker and mimicked by voices in the crowd. 5-4-3-2-1… the ribbon was lifted, and we were off. All pretty exciting, but like accelerating from a stoplight in heavy traffic, it takes a minute before you can hit stride. At first, little Reyan was dodging feet on both sides until he was put in his pouch to ride along until the crowd thinned. The people running moved to the side lanes and we walkers migrated to the middle. Tails were high and steps light as we all stretched our legs and found our pace. Rosy was finally on the move, her long legs trotting down the path. Reyan, secure in her pouch, watched the road go by, itching to join the race on the pavement. Chai’s energy level was not easy to read, as his tightly coiled tail could not flag, but he seemed happy to get going.

Although there were a lot of us in the race that day, there was enough room for the dogs to stretch on their leashes and move from side to side. The people in the race looked out for them and no one seemed to lose patience if they had to work around a dog’s path. Every dog in the race made it through the course without incident and after, there was cool shade and grass to be found, lots of watering bowls, and treats at every booth.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t bring my Daisy along for this dog-friendly event. I thought about it for a minute before deciding not to put her (and me) through it. At this stage in her evolution, our Daisy is a little too exuberant to be counted on to behave in the expected manner of dogs in a crowd. She is not aggressive to other dogs—of that, I’m sure. But trying to ensure that she doesn’t jump on anyone would feel like a full-time job amid a challenging activity. Maybe as she gets older… It looks to me like there’s time to work that out because the dog-friendly Colfax Marathon isn’t going away anytime soon.