If you ever find yourself strolling through Vernon County, you’ll find a landscape packed full of twisty and curvy roads. Roger Pedretti, and his longtime running partner Samaritan, have been navigating this dusty terrain together for close to 17 years.
“When it comes to race time, he knows what it’s all about,” Pedretti says. “And he wants to, he wants to haul ass basically.”
Pedretti’s partner Samaritan is a 700 lb. racing burro. Pedretti and his family have traveled the country participating in races for the Western Pack Burro Association. Finishing top 10 in almost every race they’ve been in.
“People stop and say, what are you doing? I say we’re going to do a race. A race? You’re going to ride them?” says Pedretti. “And see a lot of people do think you ride these animals. We don’t ever ride them.”
Burro racing involves you being tethered to your burro and not riding them. The tether is a 15-foot lead rope and then you run alongside your burro for the length of the course, some of which are close to 30 miles long.
“I have gotten dragged down the mountain a little bit, cracked a rib, and still finished the race as well,” says Pedretti. “Our motto is kind of start them finish them, you know, but you never know what can happen in between.”
Roger’s brother Rick Pedretti started racing alongside his brother in 2011. Now, there are several different generations of Pedretti’s taking part in the sport. In his 60s, Pedretti doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. That’s because to him, there’s nothing quite like running with his old friend Samaritan.
“I always say after you run with a burro, everything else is just running,” says Pedretti. “It’s a lot more exciting and a lot more going on than just going out for a run by yourself.”
(A version of this story also aired on Wisconsin Public Radio on July 26, 2012.)