The Running of the Reindeer is one of Fur Rondy‘s newer events – having been part of the Fur Rondy for six years and has become one of the Festivals most popular events. An Alaskan twist to Spain’s “Running with the Bulls” event, over 2000 Alaskans dress up in furs, crazy homemade costumes and antlers. The reindeer come from a farm located just off the Glenn Highway in Butte, Alaska. Before the first year, questions arose as to how the reindeer would react in the big crowds and how are they going to get the reindeer to run the few blocks down Anchorage’s 4th Avenue. Fur Rondy organizers decided to use thirteen reindeer. After much thought the farm decided that if they put one female at the end of the race in a pen that naturally the twelve males they were using would run towards her. It worked!
As a runner we gather in a mass crowd at the starting area about a half hour before the start. The Hosts get everyone revved up in the starting area – beach balls are being tossed among the runners and we are singing along with local favorite Hobo Jim. Fans gather along 4th Avenue and there is a sea of cameras and media recording this event. This year I was right up front and as I looked at the far end could see the handlers beginning to bring up to reindeer for the 1st heat. The event has become so popular that they now have 5 heats.
It’s time and they call the women’s group to the starting line. The reindeer have already had 2 heats and the handlers are having a little struggle with a few of them. Some ladies next to me aren’t quite so confident anymore and for a brief moment wondering why they are doing this run. The countdown begins and I start running down 4th Avenue in the deep snow. The reindeer are behind us and after a few minutes I can hear the crowd countdown to the reindeer release. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one!! I keep running and I cannot see behind me but I know reindeer are on the way down 4th Avenue. Then I hear the crowd cheer as the reindeer get closer to me. I look over my right shoulder and here comes four reindeer running hard and fast. One is so close it brushes up against me and its antlers just barley touching my side. I keep running knowing that there are plenty more coming behind but have no idea when. A few more pass by on the right and left. Eventually I make it to the finish and take a huge breathe of relief that I endured one more year and no pokes from the reindeer. I’m already planning next year’s costume and can’t wait to once again to Run with the Reindeer.