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Run With Your Dog at Animal Run

I heard Deepak Chopra say on The Oprah Winfrey Show that if you’re looking for a purpose, pick a problem and spend your time working on that.

I’ve been a digital marketer for a long time. I’ve worked for companies that sold wine, credit cards, textbooks, and technology services. I couldn’t break into the companies that I really wanted to work for such as Patagonia or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — the ones having real teeth for their transformative social justice missions. I craved meaningful work with real impact.

When I traveled in my 30s, seeing so many animals with visible ribs wandering the streets truly bothered me. In my 40s, I happily discovered long-distances foot races called ultras (runs that are longer than the 26.2 miles of a marathon). It was clear that I needed to combine my loves for running and animal welfare into a charity event. Voilà! The Animal Run 5k, 10k, and half-marathon were born in March 2018. I found my way to change the world.

I needed money to buy banners and flags, pay for a website, pay designers, etc., to promote the event, so I ran 500 miles around the San Francisco Bay Trail for the month of July 2018 as a fundraising effort that secured $10,000 — a great kickstart for the inaugural race that happened that August.

The funny thing was that my friend and adviser, Victor Ballesteros of Victory Sportdesign, reached out to me a few weeks prior to the event and asked about integrating a concept called “canicross” into Animal Run. In essence, he wanted runners to bring a dog to race with them. I learned that canicross — short for canine cross country — racing originated in Europe as off-season training for the sledding community. Just like running, canicross can be enjoyed from beginner to elite level.

It made so much sense. Victor, himself a huge dog lover and stellar athlete, would be the canicross expert on and off site, and Animal Run became the first race to introduce canicross to the Bay Area. Everywhere I look now, I see thousands of people running with their dogs, and I feel like secretly slipping a flier into their pockets.

Animal Run is an eco-friendly vegan event with a small trail race feel. Its immediate benefit is raising money for various Bay Area animal welfare organizations through registration fees and the fundraiser raffles. It also raises awareness for vegan businesses that will be selling their wares on site.

Animal Run has a specific ethos — the ethos of community creating a positive halo effect. Think of it as a series of seven expanding circles, beginning with “run” at the center. Radiating outward in subsequent order are “eat kindly,” “support beneficiaries,” and “be eco conscious.” You’ve got those first four inner circle actions covered — just by showing up to run on race day. The remaining three circles are “volunteer at Animal Run,” “adopt a dog or two,” and “support vegan businesses.” The three outer circles are optional but multiply the effects of creating a better, more loving, and sustainable world. It might not be at scale yet, but I’ll take incremental effort over none at all.

The 2019 2nd Annual Animal Run 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and canciross (race with one dog) is going to be at Point Pinole, in Richmond, on Sunday, July 21. I’m excited about this event because runners are going to love the beautiful venue. Plus, my crack volunteer team and I are leveraging last year’s lessons to make this race a better experience for the runners and more impactful for the beneficiaries. Find out more at Use code BAYWOOF to save $5.

Registration fees and raffle proceeds will support Stockton’s Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary ( and San Rafael’s WildCare ( Both organizations do so much work rehabilitating and protecting our fur and feathered friends. It humbles me to know that Bay Area runners will be supporting many animal welfare organizations for years to come.

In the case readers can’t make it to the annual Animal Run race on July 21, another trail racing company called Pacific Coast Trail Runs (the owner is Greg Lanctot, a dynamo of a human being) is holding a 5k canicross race on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Rodeo Beach, Sausalito. That event will be a fundraiser for Animal Run, too.

Eileen Francisco is an ultra runner who lives in San Mateo. She is the founder and race director of Animal Run, a charity run supporting Bay Area animal welfare organizations. Join her July 21. 

Dog Run Graphic


Graphic by Eileen Francisco

Main article photo by: Photo by Solovyova iStock