More than 60 runners and 20 dogs gathered at Buffalo Park Sep. 1 to compete in the inaugural Doggie Dash, a 5K trail run benefiting the High Country Humane nonprofit organization through ticket sales and sponsorships. The race commenced early last Sunday morning as runners and their dogs were flanked by excited visitors and volunteers cheering them on.
The event donated 60% of proceeds to High Country Humane. The remainder will be used to cover set-up costs and future events.
In addition to the 5K run, attendees had the opportunity to visit stations set up by local vendors as well as adopt dogs from High Country Humane on-site. Children were invited to compete in a 1K run preceding the main event.
Prescott local Sarah Kassing led the pack accompanied by Lyra, a purpose-bred sled dog. With the help of a specialized pulling dog harness, the duo finished first clocking in at 17:10. Kassing said this style of running is not well-known in the United States, but is quickly gaining popularity.
“Lyra is pulling me, which definitely improves my time by quite a bit,” Kassing said. “Using a hip belt and harness shaves off about a minute per mile.”
Kassing is an active member of the dog community and was very impressed with how organized the event was. She hinted that she may be looking for a repeat win at the Doggie Dash planned for next year.
The event, concessions and adoptions were all organized by local couple Ruairi Moynihan and Crystal Hernandez who operate a trail running business, Trail GangstAZ. The business is a multimedia platform focused on trail running apparel, entertainment and community service.
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“We started this business called Trail GangstAZ about a year and a half ago. It started as a YouTube channel,” Moynihan said. “When we started creating merchandise associated with the channel, we decided we wanted to get into event planning as well.”
Moynihan and Hernandez are no strangers to the Arizona trail running community. Before the couple moved to Flagstaff, Moynihan spent five years coaching track in the Goodyear area where he hosted a few events of his own. Hernandez considers herself an experienced trail runner.
Moynihan said the event has been in the works for more than a year. Considering the couple’s passion for trail running combined with their undeniable love for dogs, the event seemed like a perfect fit.
“When we first started dating it was a down-the-road big dream,” Hernandez said. “We would say, ‘someday we’ll move to Flagstaff and host a doggie race.'”
After getting into contact with High Country Humane, the couple’s dream came to fruition.
High Country Humane brought two dogs of its own, Heidi and Rocco, to attend, both available for adoption. Heidi is a 6-year-old female hound and competed in the event with a High Country Humane volunteer. While Rocco, an 11-month-old Rottweiler mix, did not run himself, he happily walked the trail and socialized with the other dogs.
“I am very happy with the showing,” High Country Humane executive director Steve Conrad said.