Why do we Kiss that Rat?

The infamous Noble Canyon 50k rat... pucker up if you wana' finish.

The infamous Noble Canyon 50k rat… pucker up if you wanna’ finish.

The finish line of an ultramarathon is already different from a road race. Rather than crossing the line in large waves of people we typically finish either solo or locking arms with someone important to us. Often the Race Director is there to greet and congratulate us.

If you’ve ever been to the finish line of the Noble Canyon 50k at first it looks like any typical ultramarathon finish line. Then, as runners start finishing you see each of them instinctively kiss a large plastic (gross looking) rat! And you wonder: What are they doing? Why are they doing that? What’s the purpose or meaning behind that? Everyone else seems to know the answers to these questions and you don’t want to look like you don’t know what’s going on so you don’t ask about it, but rather continue to observe and try to figure it out.

#45 Yen Darcy is puckering up to clinch another finish at Noble Canyon 2013.

#45 Yen Darcy is puckering up to clinch another finish at Noble Canyon 2013.

2010 winner Dean Dobberteen sets the standard for the day by kissing the rat.

2010 winner Dean Dobberteen sets the standard for the day by kissing the rat.

The running group known as the San Diego Bad Rats started the NC50k. The first couple years someone hung a small 4″ plastic rat from the finish line banner as a sort of Rat Mascot. In those early years, courtesy of Dean Dobberteen, a large nasty looking plastic rat with a long tail and a curious smile was on display at the Rat Hole aid station but was not yet at the finish line.

The first rat mascot hangs at the finish in 2007 (photo by Jerry Armstrong).

The first rat mascot hangs at the finish in 2007 (photo by Jerry Armstrong).

The race director at the time was Scott Mills, who is among the most experienced runner and organizer of ultramarathons in the country. Scott has finished in my opinion the toughest 100 mile race in the country, the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run six times. And if you’ve ever been to that finish line something magical happens. When runners finish, there is no “line” to cross or banner to run under. Instead runners bend down and kiss the iconic Colorado granite hardrock.

BJ Haeck completes the toughest hundreds in the country and gladly kisses the granite.

BJ Haeck completes one of the toughest hundreds in the country and gladly kisses the hardrock.

Shortly after finishing the Hardrock 100, BJ proposes to Erica, she said yes!

Shortly after finishing the Hardrock 100, BJ proposes to Erica, she said yes!

After a couple years the placement of the large rat was rethought. Of course the most logical place to hang the new found mascot was at head-height under the Noble Canyon 50k finish line banner. Then Scott Mills presented a great suggestion: in order to obtain an official finish, everyone must kiss the rat!

So kissing the rat is a joining of the San Diego Bad Rats, the Hardrock 100, and the plain ill-logic that is ultrarunning!

The rat ready for the next victim...I mean finisher.

The rat poised and ready for the next victim…I mean finisher.


Here’s a few more rat memories from the finish line from years past:

Some runners go for the belly like 2012 five-time-finisher Delfino Martinez.

Some runners go for the belly like 2012 five-time-finisher Delfino Martinez.

 

We had a true rat mascot in 2010.

We had a true rat mascot in 2010.

Eric Miersma clinches his official finish with rat in hand.

Eric Miersma clinches his official finish with rat in hand.

Kimberly Dion about to kiss the rat.

Kimberly Dion about to kiss the rat.

Even with no banner, the rat of 2010 waited patiently on the char for the finish line smooch!

Even with no banner, the rat of 2010 waited patiently on the chair for the finish line smooch!

Many runners go straight for the lips like Eric Meech in 2012.

Many runners go straight for the lips like Eric Meech in 2012.

My wife Mary and I snuggling up with the rat.

My wife Mary and I snuggling up with the rat.

 – See you on the trails

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One Response to Why do we Kiss that Rat?

  1. Pingback: A Noble Course | Cliffs and Meadows

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