When the going gets tough, you sometimes need to read inspirational stories from real people doing amazing things within the same sport. Here’s one such inspirational story, told by Louise Cowling. Louise started Canicross with us in May 2022 on our Canicross Beginner to 5k course and has never looked back.

She lives with the MS but did not let that hold her back…in fact, she’s going from strength to strength in the sport and is starting her first season of Canicross by entering events with her gorgeous canine athlete, Mya.

Here is Louise’s story….In June 2016, at the age of 23, I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). MS is a lifelong condition that affects the brain and nerves. This diagnosis came during a 4-month long relapse, during which I had numbness from the waist down, pins and needles in my limbs, weakness, extreme fatigue and nerve pain, just to name a few of the symptoms. This was the most challenging time for me and I spent a long time ‘grieving’ for the body I felt that I was losing control over.

Louise MS

Over the 6 years since diagnosis, I have learnt to ‘listen to my body’, even though I am one of the most stubborn people in the world! Although, this stubbornness has helped me battle through and become the person I am today, facing every challenge with pure determination.

Medication-wise, when I was first diagnosed, I was given a very potent disease-modifying drug – Lemtrada (Alemtuzumab). This is a form of chemotherapy which aims to wipe out your immune system in order for it to build up again but hopefully not as destructive! Although unfortunately, this treatment didn’t work for me. This led me to start Tysabri (Natalizumab) infusions/injections which I go to the hospital to have every 4 weeks. I have been on this medication for nearly 3 years now and it is the best decision I have made. During this time, I’ve been relapse-free with stable MRI scans, and mostly symptom-free. The only symptoms I occasionally get are fatigue and nerve pain, however, this is usually when I am run down or have an infection.

Everybody knows how having a dog can massively and positively affect your mental health – who knew owning a dog could also lead to the life-changing Canicross! My 3-year-old Labrador, Mya, has been my unofficial ‘therapy dog’ and helps me in more ways than I could put into words. So when I saw an event on Facebook for ‘Canicross Couch to 5K’, I took the leap and signed up. This was a huge step for me as I was massively lacking in confidence, struggling with anxiety and was worried about how my body would hold up.

I can honestly say that signing up for this course has felt like one of my biggest achievements. Lara, our DogFit Trainer, was the most supportive person to help both myself and Mya to learn about Canicross, all while building up fitness together as a team. During the beginner’s course, I met some really caring and inspirational people, who have become good friends and we meet regularly for group runs (always followed by breakfast!).

I still feel so proud of myself for starting something new and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. During group runs with friends, it really helps my mental as well as physical health, because not only do you run with a huge grin on your face because you’re running with your dogs, but you’re also having so many laughs along the way.

Canicross has made me believe in myself again – it has given me my spark back and with pure determination and happiness, I can say that I’m not ever looking back! Getting fit with my dog has been the best thing ever and I am regularly out on the trails 2-3 times a week, running at least 5K and aiming for 10K. Getting fitter and healthier (and losing some weight in the process) has dramatically helped with my MS because my body is stronger and better able to fight.

I don’t know what the future holds as this is an unpredictable disease, but I feel with the help of Canicross, my life has changed for the better and, I can’t thank Lara enough for helping me get started and continuously supporting me. I also am very privileged to have the best personal trainer in the world – even if she does have 4 legs and fur! If anybody is thinking of getting into canicross but is too worried to do it, my advice is to just get out there and get started! It may just be the best decision you make!

Louise & Mya enjoying a Canicross group run