Spaniel does 20-mile marathons with his owner Phil Sesemann

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Phil Sesemann and Kipchoge

Phil Sesemann did very well in the London Marathon last weekend. He was the fastest British runner and, in fact, he was the fastest white runner, coming seventh in a time of two hours 12 minutes 58 seconds. He is also a doctor working in A&E. A pretty remarkable guy. He’s thinking about taking a break from doctoring and becoming a full-time athlete for a few years to see how it goes.

He said that his dogs (who are his training partners) have helped him to his excellent marathon time and seventh place. He has named his dogs after famous marathon runners. Haile, a German shorthaired pointer who is 16 weeks old, is named after Haile Gebrselassia, a retired Ethiopian long-distance track and road runner. He has named his three-year-old spaniel cross Vizsla, Kipchoge (‘the mileage mutt’), after a Kenyan professional long-distance runner, Eliud Kipchoge, who competes in the marathon and who formally competed at 5000 metres. He is the current London and world marathon record holder.

Phil Sesemann and Kipchoge

Phil Sesemann and Kipchoge. Photo: teamdogs.co.uk.

He said that Kipchoge (his dog) regularly runs marathons with him and “She did 103 miles the other week and seem to love it, but she doesn’t really get a choice.”

So, his spaniel ran 103 miles with him as part of his training during a week – amazing. And she loves it. You have to be impressed but I expect that dogs can run with more stamina than the average human. They are very efficient runners. Alex Hutchinson, writing on the Runner’s World website, states that dogs are “among nature’s most elite endurance athletes”. They demonstrate the highest sustained metabolic rates on record and in one example they burnt about 4400 kJ of energy per kilogram of body weight per day when racing over 300 miles in three days at temperatures of -4°F!

Dogs have this endurance performance ability because they “possess structural and functional adaptations at each step in the pathway for oxygen, including in the muscle mitochondria, muscle microvasculature, heart, and lungs.”

They also have a high ratio of maximal oxygen capacity to their oxygen use at rest. This is called “aerobic scope”. This allows them to run for extended periods at sustained speeds without becoming anaerobic”. I would also say that their running style is efficient and designed for stamina as well as speed.

Hutchinson says that exceptional humans can compete with mediocre dogs on a pound-for-pound basis. So, Phil Sesemann’s dog, Kipchoge, is well able to keep pace with him and might even be better at marathons than him although he says that she lags behind. I suspect, therefore, that he might be better than her but she is certainly very capable and is a “stalwart on the Leeds training scene”.

She has her own Strava account. This is a business which has a website and which provides analytical data via smartphones worn by athletes. Their algorithms allow athletes to analyse every aspect of their activity. Their software turns every iPhone and Android phone “into a sophisticated running and cycling computer”. The software also works with GPS watches and head units. You can dive deep into your data, they say.

Phil Sesemann presumably analyses Kipchoge’s running data. That’s how serious they all are about marathon running. Haile is yet to go on a marathon run as I understand it. He did a warmup the other day and Kipchoge wasn’t that pleased.

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