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For 75 Years, Runners Have Raced in Colorado Tethered to Donkeys

Tim Scaturro leads his burro Charlie

It’s nearly golden hour at Carolyn Holmberg Preserve, an urban oasis at the northern edge of Broomfield, Colorado, as Amber Wann gives a group of runners her safety spiel. Tonight’s route is fairly simple, she says, a three-mile jaunt through dry prairie grasses surrounding scenic Stearns Lake. The first leg of the stunning out-and-back heads westward toward Boulder with the shadowy outline of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon.

Just don’t let your ass drag you, she warns.

“That’s why we don’t tie the donkey to us, because you can trip and fall, and they will drag you if they hear your body fall,” Wann says. She and her husband, Brad Wann, have brought 13 animals from their Redonkulous Ranch Sanctuary & Rescue in Highlands Ranch, about 40 miles south, to pair with humans for the early evening run. “If they hear you dragging, they will run faster.”

Tim Scaturro leads his burro Charlie around some water in the road as the duo head towards Mosquito Pass during Fairplay’s 2019 race.

Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A self-professed donkey matchmaker, Wann recruits runners through her private Facebook group “Colorado Burro Rentals ~ Runners and Training Ops” to attend year-round outings along Colorado’s Front Range. Open to anyone interested in hitting the trail with a donkey, participants need only fill out an online questionnaire ahead of a scheduled run and she’ll show up with the right burro. The rental fee amounts to roughly $20 per person to cover transportation.

Sensing restlessness in the group, Wann wraps up with some running tips, like staying on the burro’s left side for consistency and making sure to look forward instead of turning around in “a tug of war.”

“That’s about it,” she says before dismissing the athletes, many of them in training for the quintessentially Coloradan high-altitude endurance sport of pack burro racing, now approaching its 75th season.

The origins of pack burro racing

The state’s official summer heritage sport since 2012, pack burro racing first began in 1949 with the World Championship Pack Burro Race, running from…

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