December 8, 2019
Bestselling author Christopher McDougall returns to Colorado storytelling with a focus on running with donkeys.
Pack burro racing teams in Georgetown
It may come as a surprise that of all the recreational pursuits available in Colorado, pack burro racing is the state sport. It’s in honor of miners leading burros (donkeys) through the mountains to help them in their quest for precious metals.
Today, ground zero for burro racing is Leadville, where dozens of teams—a runner paired with their donkey—compete over 15- and 21-mile courses in August. The town is also integral to Christopher McDougall’s newest book, Running With Sherman: The Donkey With the Heart of a Hero ($28, Knopf). “I first went to Colorado to report on Born to Run, and it was like cracking open the lid of a treasure chest,” says McDougall, in reference to his 2009 bestseller about running with the Tarahumara native Mexican tribe, who made their U.S. debut at another iconic local race, the Leadville 100. “If people are going to test themselves in an extreme environment, they’re not going to California, and I keep stumbling across stories from Colorado that are really intriguing.”
McDougall lives in Lancaster County, Penn. It was there that he met Sherman, a donkey with a death sentence. The neglected animal was in dire shape when he was adopted by McDougall and his family, but within days of rehabilitation, McDougall had his sights set on racing with Sherman in Colorado. As the story unfolds, we learn that it takes an entire cast of characters, including two other donkeys, to get him there.
“Only after the immediate crisis survival... did I realize that he [Sherman] needed a job and purpose,” says McDougall.
“That’s when—if this actually happens, a running donkey—did I realize there was a book and that it would tap into that animal-human partnership.”
It’s a story about athletic pursuits, and moreso about the bonds that form between animals and humans. The relationship is endearing and we learn that even though people think they rescue animals, it’s the humans who are actually saved. 6pm, $25, Feb. 18, Paepcke Auditorium, aspenshowtix.com
Photography by: Courtesy of the author