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.
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 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.
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!
Here’s a few more rat memories from the finish line from years past:
– See you on the trails
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