Northern Ireland

Portstewart Strand hosts 'Waggy Races'

Waggy races
Image caption Dogs and humans in perfect running harmony on Portstewart Strand

It was not a normal Sunday on Portstewart Strand.

This week, one of Northern Ireland's most popular beaches was overrun with people going for a jog with their dog.

Almost 250 furry competitors (and their humans) took part in the 5km run, which just happened to fall on what certainly felt like the warmest day of 2017 so far.

There were breeds of all kinds - from Great Danes to Bichon Frise, they were all welcome at Waggy Races.

'Shy Ted'

The event was dreamt up by Ruth and Neil Robinson, who were inspired by Crufts.

Image caption Ruth Robinson and her husband Neil organised the event

"We got a Samoyed puppy and Neil and I both run, and take her out with us.

"We thought it would be brilliant if this was a sport but we didn't think it existed. Then we were watching Crufts and saw that they had a race called Canicross," Ruth said.

"There was nobody in Ireland doing it, so we thought we should just set it up ourselves. We did our first race in 2014 and we've been going ever since.

"There's lots of dogs, lots of barking, lots of people.

"It was runners who had dogs who came on at the start, then it was the agility people, then the casual runners, and word just seems to have spread."

This is the biggest event they have had so far, with a mix of walkers and runners taking part.

Image caption Crufts veteran Dexter ran with his owner Louise Smart

But the big stars of the day were the dogs, and none bigger than Jack Russell Dexter, who may be better known for his Crufts performance under his official name, Shy Ted.

He ran alongside his owner, Louise Smart, who said he is used to a bit of competition.

"Dexter qualified for Crufts and came fifth overall in the small dogs two weeks ago. We were sixth in the ladies at Waggy Races, so a bit slow, but he's had a lot of treats recently from my husband," she said.

"I'm a member of a dog club and a running club, so to get out here and do both our hobbies in a big group is fantastic.

Image caption Ciara Toner said she had a great day with her dog Lara

"Small dogs don't pull you as hard, you have to put a bit more work in but they enjoy it just as much. Right to the end, Dexter's pulling to get me across the finish line. He loves it and screams with excitement on the start line!"

The fastest dogs were awarded medals for coming first, second, or third in their category.

'Happy pup'

Ciara Toner and her dog Lara took the women's top spot.

"Running with a dog, if you're holding a lead, can restrict your arm movements. It doesn't help if she's going backwards or running slightly behind you as well," she said.

"I run a bit faster on my own but she's just getting a bit old. She had a great day and just got a treat there so she's a happy pup."

Image caption In the male category, Casper came in with the fastest time with his owner Brian Kinsella

In the male category, Casper came in with the fastest time with his owner, Brian Kinsella.

"I'm delighted to come down to have this race on our doorstep," said Brian.

"It's great for Casper to come out and meet all these other dogs. He does run with me for about 20-30km a week so he does a fair bit, and it showed. It paid off, all the training."

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