- Running with dogs became my main motivation in life. It helped me to stay focused and motivated during my studies, work and in hard times, says multiple World champion in canicross, Tessa Philippaerts.
Tessa has been running with dogs since she was 14 years old. Now, the sport is an important part of her life. In addition to competing, Tessa is traveling around the world to hold seminars. She also helps other athletes build training programs for themselves and their dogs.
- The bond you get with your dog by training together is unbreakable and so special that it is hard to explain.
Get Tessa's best canicross tips in our podcast "Unleashed", or read her advice on how to prepare for a canicross competition if this video inspired you to get out and run with your dog!
From track and field to canicross
In her teenage years, Tessa was a big track and field fanatic. In long jump and hurdles, she was top five in Belgium.
- Very often, I had to train for long endurance runs, which I hated. I was never really good at running long distance and preferred everything from a sprint to a maximum of 1000 meters.
After Tessa’s father saw that she was struggling with her motivation, he gave in to the pressure of buying a dog to accompany his daughter on her runs. Angel, the Whippet, entered Tessa’s life.
- She was the sweetest female Whippet in the world, and she was just as crazy about running as me! She went with me on all my training runs, running free or jogging on a leash. Not long after she turned one year, my father saw something called canicross on the Internet. I remember him saying, “That is something for you!” We drove to one of the races, bought all the equipment there, and I competed with her for the first time. I had so much fun! We finished last place, but I did not care!
Ever since, Tessa and Angel basically went to every race, improving each time. They even became Belgian vice-champions!
At the age of four, Angel unfortunately damaged her shoulder while playing fetch.
- We couldn’t run together anymore. I was devastated
Tessa borrowed some dogs from friends to continue racing, but it was not the same. She missed having her own dog. Some months later, she met Yukon, a one-year-old sled dog in France. It was love at first sight.
- I fell in love with him the first moment we met. We started training, and he turned out to be the biggest talent I have ever seen.
Three months later, Tessa and her father discovered that the World Championship of 2011 was held in Borken, only three hours away. They decided to give it a shot.
- Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to come back home with the gold medal in the junior class and a faster time than the best senior lady day two! From that day on, I understood we were a great team. Many more gold, silver, and bronze medals in Belgian championships, European championships, and world championships followed, though not only in canicross. He also has been quite a star in bikejoring.
In the following years, Tessa expanded her pack of dogs.
- Yukon is old now. He is still in great shape and still loves running, but I can see that he is getting older. I respect the days that he is tired and needs rest, and I love all the days that we can still rock the trails together. I am so grateful that this stubborn Alaskan crossed my path. He has changed my life and taught me all that I know about racing.