The 60th running of the World Championship Pack Burro Race is coming up in a couple of weeks. The race, held on the last Sunday in July since 1949, is a 29-mile trek from the town of Fairplay to the summit of Mosquito Pass, 13,187 feet altitude, and back again. Racers and their burros encounter 3,000 vertical feet of climbing, rocky roads, icy streams, spongy tundra, a rough-and-tumble trail up a talus slope, and a look inside their soul among other things
It’s this uncharted geography of the mind that sometimes proves most challenging.
It’s sobering that I’ve run in this race 27 times. I’ve finished last. I’ve finished second probably more times than any other person in the race’s history. I’ve finished in the ambulance. And I’ve finished first a few times, too.
After all this, I must admit that the more I know about burros and pack-burro racing, the less I know. It’s all still a mystery to me how to pull together proper training, rest and nutrition for man and beast. Sure, I have a few ideas, but the course is always there to prove me either right or wrong.
One thing I do know for sure, this particular 29 miles will seek out and find any physical or mental weakness that you or your animal have on that particular day. And if you are human and your burro is a burro, that means this course will bring something to the surface every time you run it. The difference between success and failure is what you do once that happens.