A Unique Running Companion

Meet the ultra-endurance athlete whose training pals are goats

Shanda Hill and her four-year old goat.

Runners have long kept animal companions. Most common are trail dogs; ultra runner Chris McDougall runs with his rescue donkey Sherman; then there’s Vernon, B.C.’s Shanda Hill and her run buddies—her tribe of goats.

When Hill initially got the goats she hadn’t planned on running with them but found them to be excellent training partners. The 40-year-old ultra-endurance athlete had five goats before she moved in with her partner and doubled the pack. There’s now Yoda, Wicket, Spirit, Sparky, Hudson, Gonzo, Thumper, Bucky, Huck, and Chewie. All are Nigerian dwarf goats, except for brothers Gonzo and Hudson who are half LeMancha.

The goats join her on some short runs: “nothing too crazy,” she says. Hiking and paddle boarding at nearby Kalamalka Lake are also activities they enjoy together. “It may seem unique,” says Hill, “but to me, my goats are kind of like dogs.”

Yoda is the oldest—now four years old—and very special to Hill. He joined her in 2018 alongside his brother but after the sibling was killed by a cougar, they developed a tight bond with Yoda going everywhere with Hill—from home to landscaping work and joining her on some training sessions.

“The beautiful thing about goats,” she says, “is that they’re pretty hardy, they’re really sure-footed and you know they’re never going to bite anybody.”

Hill and the goats are regular fixtures along the Okanagan Rail Trail. She says they can be quite stubborn and know their limits. “They’re very independent and they’re very strong-willed,” she says, “so when they decide that they’re tired they will literally wait for somebody theyalso activities they enjoy together. “It can follow like a herd, and they will turn around and go back with that person.”

Hill is the first Canadian to complete a double deca triathlon—20 Ironman-distance races in 28 days but this summer she has decided to stay closer to home and run trail races, including the Freaky Creeky 100 in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park and the Dirty Feet Heartbreak 100 in Kamloops.

Yoda may have to do some catch up, however, at his peak he was running between 10 and 12 kilometres with Hill, but he has put on a few pounds in the off season and so will start with some hikes and—just like any athlete—build a training base.

It has been said that two of the best ways to stick to a training program are to do it with pals, and to make it fun. As Hill kicks her own training into gear, she certainly has both of those covered. 

Photography by Keylight Photography

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