I Dream of Burros
After my marathon last year I was done running. I was tired of feeling stiff and having my feet and hips hurt. I also felt I had accomplished my running goals. There were no other events that appealed to me. I was burned out. That all changed when I met Jacob. Who was Jacob? Simply put, he’s an ass. That’s right! A donkey/burro. Yes! I started to race burros.
Pack burro racing is only here in Colorado. Considered Colorado’s Heritage sport, it pays homage to the state’s rich mining history. Starting around 1948, people would gather with their burros and have fun competitions. Gradually, burro racing grew to become a regular event. The rules are simple. You have to stay with your burro. Lose him and you are disqualified. The burro, standard or mammoth, must carry a 40 lb pack saddle equipped with a pick and shovel. Mini donkeys are exempt from any weight requirement. Lastly, your donkey is the one who determines the winner. Seems straightforward. I’m in!
Over the summer I did my first burro race and enjoyed every minute of it – well almost every minute. There is definitely a learning curve.
My first race was a crash course in donkey handling. It was an awkward first date. Jacob, I learned, didn’t like running up hills and, in fact, he didn’t like going up hills at a normal pace at all. Since the first part of the race is up hill, Jacob and I were near last place. Efficient burro racers have their donkeys pull them up hills. This was not what I had planned, me literally pulling my ass up the pass. At this pace it would take me a couple hours to finish this 5 mile race. However, once we reached the flats and downhill, Jacob cranked and we made up ground on the other burros. Next came a single track section. Jacob proved to be an excellent single track racer. I believe this was his strength. He stayed behind me, didn’t run me over, jumped over trees and streams with ease and never freaked out when other donkeys got lose and bumped into him. It was the first time I actually saw him engaged during the whole race. He really loved traveling on the trails. Jacob was a burro after my own heart and from then on I knew we would be very good partners.
A couple of things you should know about burros:
1) They love being with their group. Once they’re in a group it’s hard to move past them, which can be good and bad. It’s bad because it’s a challenge to get past a group but good because it motivates the donkeys to move faster.
2) Burros are very smart which makes them willful. You have to prove to them that the task they are about to do is worthy of them doing it. Treats are a temporary solution. As a handler you have to figure out what makes your donkey tick. Once a donkey learns something they never forget it, much like an elephant. Their stubbornness can be frustrating at times, but also part of the fun and challenge of burro racing.
Jacob and I had a decent showing for the day. He fizzled at the end. Fifty feet from the finish, Jacob proceeded to stop and walk. He was done. Jacob was not as concerned about where he finished as much as I was. I mean, who just stops right before the finish line and doesn’t want to move? Apparently, Jacob does. He was content to be with his donkey crew, get attention and treats.
What I loved about donkey racing was that it wasn’t just about competition. It was about slowing down and enjoying my burro’s company, the people in my group, and working together for a common goal. Everyone loved being with the donkeys, whether they were walking or running. It was refreshing to be in race where people weren’t asking about your time, but inquiring about your ass. HAHA!! So many ass jokes! You learn early on to check the ego at the door in burro racing. Donkeys don’t care about how fast you run or how tough you are because in the end they will show your ass up. Donkeys are stronger, faster, and tougher than we will ever be. The only one who was breathing hard and was sweaty after the race was me. Jacob was totally chill. In the end it was a good day for Jacob and even a better day for me.
~ Alison Conrad, Team Film Cofounder and Burro Racer Extraordinarie