How These Colorado Students Learn to Run With a Buffalo

From Runner’s World
By Lisa Jhung

Photo: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Can you imagine corralling a 1,300-pound animal at full sprint?

Running with a 1,300-pound bison is not your average college extracurricular. Yet, each spring in late April as the semester draws to an end, students line up with hopes of being part of one of the University of Colorado-Boulder’s proudest traditions.

This year, 35 current and incoming students came out hoping to be handpicked to earn the coveted title of being one of the school’s “Ralphie Handlers.” Ralphie is the name of the bison, or buffalo as is the school mascot, that has led the home team onto the field at football games for the past 52 years.

As you can imagine, the university can’t let the large animal run by itself across the field. That’s where the handlers come in. They run by its side as Ralphie reaches speeds of up to 19 mph in a horseshoe-shaped route before being directed into a trailer by handlers who hold onto ropes on Ralphie’s harness.

“We have two people up front; they’re typically our faster people,” program director John Graves told Runner’s World. “They’re helping to control Ralphie’s direction as she runs around the field.” In back, you’ll find the biggest, strongest handler. “His job is to slow her down a little bit.” Two other handlers run on either side of her to help both direct and slow her down.

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