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The rats are back! 46th Running of the Rodents set for April 12

Steve Jones

It’s that time of year again. On Thursday, April 12, Spalding University will host its 46th annual Running of the Rodents with the Disney-inspired theme “Magic Ratdom.” It’s a free, public event.

The rat races start at 11:30 a.m. in the third-floor ballroom of the College Street Building, 812 S. Second Street. A public parade through campus will precede the races at 10:45 a.m., starting at Mother Catherine Square, located on West Breckenridge Street between South Third and South Fourth streets.

WHAT: In one of Spalding’s oldest, proudest traditions and in a twist on the Kentucky Derby, trained rodents will compete for the coveted garland of fruit-flavored ring cereal as they speed around a miniature racetrack—.024 furlongs in length (about 16 feet). This year’s event will be held in tribute to Running of the Rodents creator and former Spalding biology professor Sister Julia Clare Fontaine of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who died on Feb. 22 at the age of 97.

(Read an interview with Sister Julia Clare about the rat race from 2012.)

During the parade, participants will be dressed in Disney-inspired attire, and in Kentucky Derby tradition, racing fans will wear decorated hats as part of the annual Rat Hat contest. Lunch (cash-only) will be offered after races.

Special events taking place earlier during “Rat Week” include:

• Tuesday, April 10: Human “Rat” Race with Zorb Balls (11 a.m.-1 p.m., Mother Catherine Square).

• Wednesday, April 11: Fruit-Ring Eating Contest (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., POD dining center, Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth St.).

WHO: Rodents trained by teams of Spalding students, staff and faculty. This year’s running rats are named Gus Gus, Beatrice, The Mad Ratler, Nat the Rat, Ratpunzel, Jaq Jaq and Remi.

WHEN: Thursday, April 12 – Rat Parade, 10:30 a.m. (starting at Mother Catherine Square), Running of the Rodents rat races to follow, 11:30 a.m. “Call to the Post” (College Street Building third-floor ballroom, aka Spalding Downs, 812 S. Second St.).

RAT RACE ORIGIN: When Sister Julia Clare Fontaine overheard a senior student complain about the “rat race” of finals week, she immediately had an idea for a stress reliever before spring exams. Since 1973, the Running of the Rodents has been a fun-filled Louisville tradition. It was coined as “The Most Exciting Two Seconds in Sports” by Trivial Pursuit® after 1987’s Deep Throat won the Rodent Derby in 1.8 seconds. Spalding’s annual rat race serves as both a stress reducer and a unique method of teaching students about animal care.