Running of the Rodents: The fastest (or maybe slowest) two seconds in sports – Louisville Courier

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Oct 3, 2012 in Rat News | Subscribe

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It’s billed as the “fastest two seconds in sports,” although, to be honest, it took the participants a good 30 seconds even to break from the gate Thursday in the 40th annual Spalding Derby.

And the “winner” never actually reached the finish line, turning around about a foot short and heading back to the starting gates a little over a minute into the race.

But to be fair, the participants were rats and the safety of the wooden gates probably seemed much more inviting than the hundreds of Spalding University students, alumni, faculty and community members loudly cheering for their favorite to finish first in the annual Running of the Rodents, the unofficial kickoff to Derby festivities.

In the midst of this hoopla — complete with people dressed like Elvis and Las Vegas showgirls to go with this year’s theme, “Viva Rat Vegas” — stood 91-year-old Sister Julia Clare Fontaine, a former science professor who is credited with conceiving the idea of racing rats as a biology class project in 1973.

Fontaine said she was giving out an assignment toward the end of the school year when she heard a student say he would be “so glad to get out of this rat race.”

With that, Fontaine came up with the race idea as a stress release. She took some of the pet rats in the class and made a short racetrack, a tradition that quickly caught on and one, she said, now being copied around the world.

“It’s so wonderful the staff and students have continued to do it,” she said, though she told WAVE-3 TV’s Dawne Gee, who presided over the affair, that she never could have envisioned it growing into the spectacle it has become.

And it has become far more than seven or eight rats racing around a small green track.

Hundreds of people lined the streets in front of Spalding before the race to watch a parade with floats and decorated vehicles along Fourth Street, catching candy thrown from a vehicle disguised as a rat, among others, and then enjoying a large buffet inside the school.

Inside the Spalding ballroom, three nursing students wore placard-size “anatomically correct” Ace of Heart cards with pictures of actual hearts on them. A faculty member was dressed head to toe as Elvis. And Mike Marshall, 33, a student and staff member, dressed as Alan in the Vegas-themed movie “The Hangover,” complete with sunglasses, beard, baby carrier and a Baby Carlos doll.

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