An Outdoor View: On running

At the First Annual Running of the Goats, recently held in Coventry, Kentucky, six of the devious critters went rogue, veering from the run’s planned route and causing chaos and consternation for the townsfolk and their police force.

What is it about running animals that grabs people’s attention?

I can see how it might be interesting to watch the Running of the Bulls, where a bunch of hold-my-beer-and-watch-this guys are pursued by animals that are capable of putting them in the hospital or the morgue. But why would anyone show up for a running of goats?

Yet, goat-running events are held at several venues. At most of them, a few docile animals are led, herded or prodded along a narrowly defined “parade route,” with the crowd sometimes forming a human boundary. Most of the viewers are families with children. There’s a lot of squealing and giggling, and an occasional “Oh, cute!” Baltimore’s Running of the Pigs probably attracts a similar crowd.

As you might expect, the Running of the Bulls attracts a different breed of watcher. People who watch bulls running hope to occasionally see someone stuck on the dangerous end of one. Just as it happens at the occasional auto race or air show, someone dies just often enough to keep people coming back for more. Between 50 and 100 people are injured each year at Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls. In the past century, 15 people have been killed, nearly all by goring. A certain amount of maiming and dying is considered acceptable.

On the subject of running, in ancient times, most running was probably done because you were chasing something or something was chasing you. Nowadays, we humans run mainly for exercise, to raise funds for charity, or in competition against other runners. Only the undereducated run from something that can outrun them. Occasional running is done by fleeing felons and pursuing police, and juveniles of many species will occasionally break into a run seemingly just for the joy of it.

The most interesting “running-of” events involve people and animals running together. The only one of this type in Alaska that I’m aware of is the Running of the Reindeer, held during Anchorage’s annual Fur Rendezvous. Billed as “Alaska’s wackiest race,” the “racers” supposedly are trying to outrun a few reindeer, but no one is in much of a hurry to get to the finish line. Other than falling on an icy patch of pavement, there’s little danger. The Running of the Reindeer seems to be an excuse for people to put on crazy costumes and act goofy while supporting Toys for Tots.

With all the animals running around the Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna ought to host a running-of-animals event. After all, its “King Salmon Capitol of the World” sign has lost its gloss. The town could use an economic boost.

Consider this: In recent years, Pamplona’s highly popular Running of the Bulls has been accompanied by a Running of the Nudes, a protest run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). All those naked people running around have no doubt made visiting crowds even larger, and even more enthusiastic. It could happen here.

I can see the posters now: “Come to Soldotna for the Running of the Grizzlies and the Nudes!”

Gentlemen, start your cash registers!

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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