The University of Colorado at Boulder, unlike any other school in collegiate sports, has a football tradition that dates all the way back to 1967 when Ralphie (I) first ran the field against Oklahoma St. University. Ralphie's first appearance might have been in a Colorado loss, but with that loss emerged one of the greatest sports traditions in the country, the running of Ralphie.
With the ever-growing popularity over the running of Ralphie, students at the University of Colorado who want to be a part of this amazing tradition try-out to make what is accredited as a varsity sport at The University of Colorado. Being a Ralphie Runner is an accomplishment and an honor for students of the University of Colorado.
"It's an amazing feeling running in front of 50,000 people," said Senior 4th year veteran Willy Straza, "Being apart of one of the most famous football traditions in the nation is truly an honor."
Becoming a Ralphie Runner is not easy, practices consistent of weight training along with running in order to stay in shape to keep up with Ralphie on the football field.
"We have two hour lifting and running workouts twice a week." Senior 3rd year veteran Blake Gouin explained. "The entire team is required to show up. We run stadiums, hills, sprints and then different types of power lifting."
Ralphie Runners like the football players of The University of Colorado make their name come every Saturday home football game. With thousands watching in anticipation, Ralphie Runners must earn their stripes if they want to handle Ralphie on game day.
"Myself and Willy have worked hard the past couple seasons to gain the trust of our coaches to let us run up front," Gouin stated. "Coach Frei and Graves are awesome, they have done a great job teaching us proper techniques in order for us to have a smooth run. There are specifics for each position as a runner and if we are doing something wrong our coaches are sure to catch it."
On game day, preparation for Ralphie Runners is an entirely different process. Saturday morning starts with a 6:30 am wake-up call.
"We then go down to her pen, clean it up, and get her loaded into the trailer and ready for her run." Gouin Said.
Ralphie arrives to the stadium three hours before kickoff to take pictures with the CU Buffalo fans and her varsity team runners. After taking pictures, Ralphie gets driven around campus and the surrounding college town hill to get the fans excited about the football game.
After showing Ralphie around, the team of runners and Ralphie enter the stadium and get ready to run. Five minutes prior to the run, the Ralphie Runners are told who are running and their positions.
"Then we all huddle up, break it down and take our positions," Gouin explained. "The Ralphie video starts and that's when all the adrenalin kicks in, we get a count down, and we're off."
For Senior's Blake Gouin and Willy Straza, hard work and being upperclassmen on the team has paid off. Preparation is key for Ralphie Runners just like football players come game day. They have to know their positions whether or not they are handling Ralphie that day, because at any point, anything can go wrong. When CU has the opportunity to host a game on a network such as ESPN, the Ralphie Runners know they must be in their best form.
"My best memory as a Ralphie Runner was the Arizona State University blackout game last year on ESPN," Gouin proclaimed. "The stadium was loud, packed, and it was my first time getting to run the front outside position."
Win or loose the fans love watching Ralphie run. From your average to crazy Ralphie run, over the years, Ralphie has been nation-wide news for her half-time antics. In Colorado, Ralphie carries with her the tradition, history and sport of the university, and runs as a symbol of the school's institution.