For winter running motivation, take a dog or join a group

Bubba is a very good dog.

"It looks like she's got the potential to do half marathons, marathons, ultras," Harry Shulman said. "No, I'm just kidding. ASPCA would come after me if I said that."

Shulman just started running with 1-year-old Bubba in the last few months after a vet approved the pup for strenuous activity and the Shulmans' other dog, 14-year-old Maggie, retired from running.

Miles, 6, is also a very good dog. Named for the distance, Miles enjoys running more than his owner, Matan Korrub, who belongs to a group of runners who call themselves the Dashing Whippets.

"He probably runs about 20 to 25 miles a week," Korrub said. "Relentless—just always wanting to go farther and faster, having no sense of reason or rationale about a finishing time or distance."

Why do they run with dogs?

"Companionship," Shulman said. "And it kind of gets you out there because the dog has to go out."

Korrub said, "He helps me get out the door in the morning."

Especially in the colder, darker months when the mere prospect of strapping on our sneakers and heading outside to submit our bodies to burning lungs, phlegmy throats, and runny noses alone, in the dark while running on pavement sounds absolutely miserable.

"We have a lot of indoor programming," said Jon Phillips, manager of runner programming and products for New York Road Runners. He organizes winter kickboxing-aerobics classes, yoga sessions, and family runs.

"Things that'll hopefully inspire people to run and be active throughout the winter," he said.

On this night, Phillips oversaw a running-with-your-dog seminar.

"Well, the dog gets distracted," Shulman said. "If she sees or smells somebody or some dog that's kind of her age, she'll just go flying towards that dog."

"Squirrels. He really will pull," Korrub said. "If he sees a squirrel, I'm going with him."

But once Shulman and Korrub adjusted to the unpredictability of a dog's movements, the thrill of squirrels and other four-legged friends, they came to appreciate how Bubba and Miles motivated their people to get outside and exercise when the weather inspires anything but.

Or as Phillips said about the draw of all of his programming this season: "The power of the group is immense."

"It's all about accountability," he said.

"[Dogs] don't care what weather it is," Shulman said.

Korrub added, "Any time he sees me lacing up my shoes, he's staring at me wondering if he's coming with."