Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Running of the Rodents

Join us for Spalding’s most anticipated event of the year!

Rats through the Ages 2023

Spalding will host its 50th Annual Running of the Rodents! This is our oldest and proudest event of the year. This year’s theme is “Rats Through the Ages,” a fitting theme to celebrate our 50th anniversary. Join us for a fun-filled Rat Race Week April 10-14 2023. Enjoy new and old traditions such as the fruit flavored ring eating contest, field day, and more! The official Running of the Rodents or “Rat Race,” is April 13, 2023 at 11:00 am at the College Street Ballroom and is free and open to students, faculty, staff, and the general public.

“This is our unofficial kickoff right before Derby. It has grown bigger and better every year,” says President Tori McClure. Now, let’s look back through the decades at the history behind the Running of the Rodents and all its “rat-ical” accomplishments and awards.

Our story begins with a nun, a rat and a dream — sounds like a hit ’70s song! “The Running of the Rodents” event first started as a joke but then turned into Spalding’s most anticipated annual event in the university’s history!

In 1973, former biology professor Sister Julia Clare Fontaine overheard a student complaining about the “rat race” of finals week. Sister Fontaine had the idea of racing lab rats from the biology department. This was a fun stress-reliever before final exams and the “Running of the Rodents — a nod to Kentucky Derby “Run for the Roses” — was born. The first rat to win was a filly rat named Regret!

Similar to the Kentucky Derby, Spalding’s “Running of the Rodents” included parodied traditions such as the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” and serving of popcorn and lemon juleps.

1st rat race banner
Spalding students around rat race track as the race begins
The first Mr. & Ms. Rodent

Dance to the beat! Let’s look at the ’80’s now. Bigger hair and bigger traditions! In 1980, Sister Fontaine was asked, “When are you going to do something different?” She replied, “Well, this is it,” and the day before the big race, the university crowned its first “Mr. and Miss Rodent” to preside over the festivities on race day.

Fun fact: Trivial Pursuit® coined the race as “The Most Exciting Two Seconds in Sports” after 1987’s rat, Deep Throat, won in 1.8 seconds.

Pre-race picture at the opening of rat race
Mr. & Ms. Rodent from the 1990's

The ’90’s and early ’00s were “all that and a bag of chips.” The Spalding community, new and old faces from all over, came to dress up and watch this exciting rat race. We are cheesing hard at these memories!

Mr. & Ms. Rodent waving from car during parade
Members of Spalding Leadership Team wearing black Harry Potter-themed robes in Mother Catherine Square before the Rat Race parade.

Another decade, another theme! The 2010s had creative themes and costumes for every rat race. In 2019, we had a magical Harry Potter-themed rat race. President Tori Murden McClure, who was dressed as Professor Minerva McGonagall, used retired commencement regalia to create robes for herself, the Presidential Leadership Team and Academic Council, as well as members of the Student Government Association and Social Media Ambassadors. The School of Nursing students trained a white rat named Luna, who won the prized trophy adorned with a garland of fruit-flavored cereal Os!

Spalding students gather around rat race track in preparation
Group of human rat race participants after completing obstacle course

We will never forget 2020! As everyone was slowly returning to normal from the Covid-19 pandemic, we had our first Human Rat Race in 2022. The events included a fun obstacle course and prizes.

Spalding students running through rat race obstacle course

This year, we are so excited to bring back our favorite tradition in 2023! After a three-year hiatus, our furry friends are back to race as we celebrate a “rat-tastic” fifty years of this historic event.

“I’m excited to bring Rat Race back to campus in full force after a few years off due to the pandemic for the 50th anniversary,” says Madison Martin, Director of Student Engagement. “It’s a unique campus tradition with a lot of history, so we are embracing that with a “decades theme!” We’re hopeful that this event can bring the Spalding community together this spring semester.”

Interested in learning more about our “Running of the Rodents,” tradition? Check out our Rat Week & the Running of the Rodents page.