Squamish’s Niki Hurst and Christen Young took part in this year’s Furry Tails virtual race, a fundraiser for LAPS. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Friends take Langley animal shelter run to Squamish trails

Animal welfare group’s annual run goes virtual, raises $7,500-plus

A dog that now calls Squamish home is the reason why two friends from the Sea to Sky community took part in this year’s Furry Tails Race for the first time.

Niki Hurst and Christen Young, both 36, blame it all on Douglas – a one-year-old German shepherd-pitbull mix – adopted from the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) last August. Well, him, and Audi.

The local shelter has actually been part of Hurst’s life for 11 years, – since she adopted her first dog, Audi, a lab-Rottweiler-pitbull cross in 2009.

She since lost Audi in February, at age 15, but described him as incredible companion and devoted trail dog.

“Running Furry Tail seemed like the best thing I could do to honour not only my original trail dog, but the wonderful organization that found her for me,” Hurst told the Langley Advance Times.

Hurst typically participates in four or five trail races a season. But like so many runners, she hasn’t done so in the past year, due to COVID, and she was excited the LAPS fundraiser was her comeback.

RELATED: Going at your own pace for the Furry Tail Virtual Race

For six years now, LAPS has been hosting a Furry Tails Race. In 2020 and again in 2021, due to COVID, that fundraiser has gone virtual. And it’s that virtual component that facilitated the involvement by Young, Hurst, and Douglas – despite their distance away.

The trio run trails together regularly in Squamish.

“This was my first Furry Tails run, but I look forward to years when we can all run together again – I will be travelling to Langley for this event in future, for sure,” Hurst said.

Young added: “It was a great way to set a goal and do something that would push us beyond a usual Sunday.”

Young and Hurst started trail running together when they had their first kids six months apart.

“Spending long days out on the trails seemed like the perfect sanity break from young kids,” Hurst explained. “We continue to push our boundaries together through the sport of ultra-marathon running and we work well as a team out on the trails – which is more rare than you would think. Whenever one of us has an idea for an adventure, the other is usually on board within moments. When I adapted Douglas from LAPS, I joked that I probably should have involved Christen in the process more since she will spend nearly as much trail time with him as I will.”

Furry Tails Race is a fundraiser that helps raise money for the 1,400 animals – like Douglas and Audi – that pass through the shelter in an average year.

This year’s event allowed participants to choose to take part in a 5- or 10-km run or walk, or a half or full marathon. And again, because it was virtual, it ran the full month of April and allowed people to complete it in one day or break it up over multiple days, said Jenn Schroeder, the funds development manager at LAPS.

Participants could walk, run, treadmill, cycle, or even row.

In the case of Young, Hurst, and Douglas, they took their marathon to the mountains, doing a loop deep into the woods – from the Smoke Bluffs, to the Lava Flow, to Quest University.

They were both anxious for an excuse to run and a way to help LAPS, and said they enjoyed this experience.

“This event was perfect as we got to dream up our own adventure with the one stipulation that it had to be a marathon,” Young said, noting they take on a number of running adventures each year.

But Hurst admitted: “We got lost once, battling through a hot day, and ran 816 metres of elevation gain over our 42.2 km.”

Ultimately, they triumphed and had a great time doing so – including a cold water soak in the Squamish River at the end – and they’re already talking about doing it again next year.

READ MORE: Lost Langley pig finds forever home after time at LAPS shelter

Pre-COVID, the best year attracted 137 people for the Furry Tail Race, and the best year for dollars, they raised $10,415. Last year, 111 people took part in the first virtual event, raising the most ever at $12,800.

This year, Schroeder was proud to announce that the Langley Animal Protection Society had 71 participants, nine teams, that raised over $7,674.

“And donations are still coming in,” she said.

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