In Colorado Springs, Colorado, a group of runners specializes in introducing humans to the wide world of running with the burros. Rosco’s Runners, a club named for one of the its three equine regulars, was recently featured on the podcast Human Race for being one of the most unique running clubs in the country.
Rosco is a mammoth burro, weighing in at about 850 pounds. He’s the largest and also the most easy-going of the club’s burros and the one who is typically assigned to newcomers. Cash and Mordy are the two other donkeys that make up the club’s equine contingent, smaller but a bit more independent-minded than Rosco. In training runs, the donkeys are outfitted with plain halters and leadropes. Their human companions hold on to the rope and run beside them when the trail allows, or behind them (going uphill), or in front of them (on the downhills—somewhat counterintuitively—to keep the donkeys from picking up too much speed.)
In the video above, Rosco’s Runners founder Kevin Shaw shares footage from the WPBA Idaho Springs Pack Burro Race where the donkeys wear traditional packing gear on a race through town and on the trails. According to Human Race, the sport of pack burro racing (sometimes simply called “donkin’”) traces its origins back to the early mining days of the West. When a prospector discovered gold or silver up in the hills, he’d have to pack up his gear and get back to town as quickly as possible to officially stake his claim. That meant loading up the burro and hoofing it, so to speak.
Although that story may simply be a legend, pack burro racing is now an official summer heritage sport in Colorado, and races of various distances are held in old mining towns around the state.
You can find out more about Rosco and his runners on the Rosco’s Coffee House Facebook page (yes, Rosco the burro is also the namesake and face of a local cafe.) Learn more about Pack Burro Racing from the Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation (emphasis theirs) at packburroracing.com. Listen to the Human Race podcast about Rosco’s Runners at runnersworld.com.