Agata Aleksandra Zaremba

Hello Agata,
– Tell us a little about yourself …
I am 32 years old, from Poland but living in Scotland for last 12 years. I used to be professional volleyball player and always hated running (I was skipping running warm-ups).

– What are your sporting achievements till to day?
At my first World Championship I was 37th.
6th best canicrosser in the British Championships.
3rd place in Fastest Newcomer in the mixed category in the Scottish Championships.
Ranked 22nd in the Europe and Russia World Cup in the mixed category.
This presented me with the accolade of 10th place in the female only category in the Europe World Cup.

Tell us a bit about your dogs …
I have two rescue dogs.

Roger, staffordshire bull terrier cross border collie and he is 4 years old. I met Roger when I have moved from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. I was helping his owners to exercise him. 6 months later they decided that for Roger best they need to find him active home. I always wanted to have a border collie and a staffie dog, so this could have been my chance for 2 in 1 😀 I never thought twice and I have decided to take him on board. As a rescue Roger has a lot of behavioral issues (separation anxiety, hates other dogs, no recall).
Laferra which means La Ferrari 😉 , pointer cross, 18months old, Laferra is from Greece. She was found at the beach by volunteer when she was 1-2 months old. She landed at our doorstep when she was 4,5 months and Roger loved her from the beginning. She is very opposite to Roger, loves other dogs and she is very shy towards World.

Eagle Brae SDAS Championship 2016

– What is your favorite place to train?
Abercorn Church near Boness in Scotland. Nice soft trails that we can use for canicross, bikejor and scooter. We can train downhills, uphills, tough deep grass runs. There are a lot of water stops for dogs with fresh water too.

– How is your regular workout?
try to work out everyday apart from Friday. Friday is our rest day if you can call cleaning the house a rest day hah!

What’s your best memory of a race?
I remember when I was walking to control zone at the World Championship 2017 in Poland, and I was panicking that I have no clue what I suppose to be doing. On the other hand my shy Laferra knew and was very confident what to do. We moved to the start line, my heart and head were buzzing. The counting made me cry, but we were off for our first international run. This race meant a lot to me as Laferra and I had tough times before it as she didn’t want to run full races. Coming to finish line with having my girl in front was the best! I still don’t remember what happen there and what I was doing! I know we have successfully finished it. Rescue girl from Greece has finished her International race.

– Do you have any advice or other suggestions for people who want to get into this sport?
My advice would be to make small goal and small steps even if it is just for fun. It is good to have goals, as they motivate us to become stronger and faster.

– What sports do you practice “outside” your discipline or that you practiced before?
I used to do volleyball, but decided I love running now. Because of the variety of training for my dogs, I started learning mountain biking with proper instructors. This gave me the confidence for bikejor and scooter.

Roger running off his socks during biekjor competition in Scotland

– What was your debut in the race?
My debut was in March 2015 at local race Cani-Sports Scotland Plean. It was very tough and hilly but Roger and I loved it, and we keep it as tradition now and race it every year.

– Why did you choose this sport?
Hah, I think it was Roger who chose it. As he had so much energy and behavioral problems, I was looking for something that can make him tired. I couldn’t find an agility club with space, but found canicross club. You wouldn’t think but we loved it from first run we did and it changed Roger so much. He isn’t reactive anymore while on lead, he is exercised even tho he never gets off lead and most importantly he stays at home without any howling, barking or destroying it.

How do you feel when you’re “in-action” with your dogs?
I don’t know why, but it always makes me emotional that I can run with my rescue dogs. Sometimes when I feel we will do it at easy pace, when I see how keen they are I pick up and I am trying my best for them too. No matter what results we have, I feel like a Champion and the more time I spend at training my dogs, the more I feel I love them everyday.

– What do you think it is the greatest benefit of this sport?
I always had dogs at my family home, but I think the sport makes the bonding between dog and human just unbelievable strong.

– Do you think your dogs like this sport?
My dogs love the sport. When they see me wearing my running gear, they just know we are going for training, they are super excited, jumping around and rushing me around. Also when they see their running harnesses they are making that squeaky happy noise, that must be the sign of happiness.

How important is the “harmony” between you and your dog?
It is important as when you get new dog you learning each other and during training you build that harmony so you feel like a team.

With Laferra during our first international race at the IFSS World Championship 2017 in Poland

What is your state of mind before a race?
“Don’t fall, don’t fall”. On a serious note, no matter what kind of race it is, I am always nervous and buzzing for going.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Well the strengths is easy one, I know I am stubborn and determined to get to my goals and make my dreams true. I also work hard even if I can’t see the progress (never give up).

On the other hand my weakness is that I don’t believe in myself and how good I am.

– What has been your greatest joy and your worst disappointments?
Greatest joy?

I think this one is hard as every run with my dogs is my greatest joy and I am thankful to their rescue places for trusting me with them.
Disappointments?
I feel very disappointment specially after training, when I realized I stupidly got frustrated during training at one of my dog and myself. I know we and our four-legged friends will not have perfect days all the times, and sometimes we all just don’t want to run.

– How often do you train?
I am doing variety of different training 6 times a week, with having Friday as my day off.

– I know both are important but if you have to choose between “aptitude” and “motivation” to running race, what would you prefer?
Someone said to me there is no talented people, there are only those who work hard. Defo my choice would be motivation. I have never been a runner and never had talent for it, but I started at 32min per 5km and after 18months I am down to sub 19min.

The most challenging hilly course of 7.6km in Jedburgh

– How did you come to this sport?
Roger needed an exercise or activity that would get rid of his energy and make his brain tired at the same time. So canicross to start with was just perfect choice.

What do you need to practice your sport? I mean equipment but also attitudes, abilities, skills 😉
Think for me personally I need massive hills that teaches my brain that I can do it. You need the will to go out there and do it no matter what weather is there too. Equipment? Just you and your dog including canicross equipment.

Laferra & Roger at the beach at Tentsmuir – Scotland’s National Nature Reserves

– Is it possible to practice your discipline even with small dogs?
My dogs are tiny, Roger is just 16kg and around 30cm high, Laferra is 17.5kg and 59cm high. It doesn’t matter how big is your dog, you can have still have fun, as it is all about fun.

– Your sport must be considered “individual” or “team” sport?
As coming from volleyball to this sport I thought “great this will be individual sport, just for me”. I was wrong. It is team sport as you need your dog and yourself. You both need to train as hard, in my case I need to train harder as my dogs are capable of doing really well in sport.

– How long have you been practicing this sport?
I have started in February 2015.

– What sparked your initial interest?
I have never heard of sport, I only read that it is great for any kind of dog.

– Why should people play this sport?
It is great fun to be outdoor with your dogs. However personally I found more benefits to it. Since I have started canicross and other disciplines from sled dog sports I have stopped having problems with my health and also have more motivation and energy to do my daily routine things.

– Do you remember your first time “attached behind” a running dog?
I will never forget that. It was in Vogrie Country Park in Scotland which is very hilly! Roger loved it and I thought he is going to break me as I have never ran so fast uphill and downhill.

– What physical characteristics do you look for in your dogs?
Love for the run, and endurance to keep same speed over the distance.

– What mental or emotional attributes do you think is important to look for a dog that will make your sport?
Love for the running.

– If you could create your ideal dog, what are the characteristics that you would like?
Consistent at speed, great pet at home after training and interest in the world.

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