Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Umstead Marathon Mascot-ology

The time has come once again.
I have sufficiently beaten  myself to pulp with too much racing and over-training, and now it's time to rest and fret over the upcoming Umstead Marathon.

Will I be recovered in time?
Will my calf pop off again?
Will my quads curl up like armadillos?
Who cares?! The only important question is this:

What will be the mascot this year?

2009 Year of the Frog
For the uninitiated, the Umstead Marathon has a different mascot each year which adorns the assorted race paraphernalia: t-shirts, finishers pint glasses, etc. The top 15 finishers of each gender receive the coveted wooden plaques in the shape of the mascot.

How the mascot is chosen
The choosing of the mascot is a bizarre and arcane ritual known as the "Umstead Conclave".
Each year on New Year's day, a secret group of elder Godiva Track Club runners convene in a lodge in Umstead Park. They stay cloistered in the lodge day and night, never emerging, not even to go to the bathroom, until the new mascot is chosen.

Every day at noon they burn their secret ballots in the lodge fire place. If the smoke is black, it means that consensus has not been reached, and they will remain for another day.
But if the smoke is white, then rejoice! It means they have chosen the mascot.
However, the choice remains a carefully guarded secret until the first Friday in March, when we pick up our packets the day before the race.

Past mascots
Even the criteria for the mascot is a complete enigma. Does the mascot have to be an animal? Does it have to reside in Umstead park? Does it have to relate to running? No one knows for sure. We can only guess by analyzing the 7 mascots which have come so far:

From the Umstead Website
Pint glasses displaying the mascot for each year 

Umstead Marathon Mascot Analysis
YearMascotRunning RelevancePark PresenceTaxonomy
2004Deer FlyBane to Umstead Park runnersUbiquitous in spring and summerPhylum: Arthropoda
2005Flying SquirrelLooks like flattened squirrel road-kill, which is how you will feel after the raceSquirrels yes, have not witnessed any flyingClass: Mammalia
2006TurtleA celebration of a comfortable pace. Slow and Steady wins the race.I've seen a few crossing the trails. Always move them over so they don't get stepped onClass: Reptilia
2007FishEver feel like you are gasping like a fish out of water?Maybe the triathletes encounter them, but I haven'tSuperclass: Osteichthyes
2008Turkey VultureThey clean up the bodies of the DNF.Need motivation to keep moving? Look up. They are circling over your head.Class: Aves
2009FrogCareful! Turn your headlamp on. Watch your step!In the summer, we run at night to avoid the oppressive heat and flies.
But then we have to navigate a biblical migration of frogs across the bridle trails.
Class: Amphibia
2010HareObviousI'm sure they are in there somewhereClass: Mammalia (What? Again?)

2010 Year of the Bunny
Wrong guess last year
Last year we analyzed the mascots from 2004-2009, and noticed a pattern:
  1. Insect
  2. Mammal
  3. Reptile
  4. Fish
  5. Bird
  6. Amphibian. 
It certainly appeared that the conclave was doing a tour of the animal kingdom. What was missing? Marsupials!

Since we don't have any kangaroos around here, it most certainly had to be an opossum!
But we were wrong. The conclave instead went with a bunny, another mammal. We didn't see that coming.

Leading Candidates for 2011
With the choice of another mammal in 2010, the pattern of unique classes of animals has been broken.
We are not left with much to go on, other than they have all been animals, and all ostensibly exist in the park. Based on this, these are our predictions for this year's mascot:

Pros:Lots of deer in Umstead. In 2008 there was a stampede of them during the race. My sister and I had to wait for the herd to cross the trail
Cons:Might be hard to carve the antlers in wood.
I pick this every year.

Pros:The trails are called "Bridle Trails" after all, and people ride horses there all the time. The evidence they leave behind is everywhere.
Also, a galloping horse would be an inspiring running mascot.
Cons:Horses could be considered a vehicle and not a natural inhabitant of the park 

Pros:It's not unusual to see snake in Umstead, and even more common to run into someone in a panic warning you of a snake.
Plus, it would look really cool on shirt.
Cons:Plaque might be a little fragile

Pros:They have not had a marsupial yet, and a snarling opossum would also would look freaking awesome on shirt.
Cons:They might not choose this just to spite us.

Other candidates
  • Pile of horse poo: A fitting symbol of the Umstead experience
  • Shark: Would be able to check Chondrichthyes off the list.
  • Ultra Runner: You see these creatures day and night at the park
  • Tick -Good one from Barefoot Josh below

What's your guess? Post your guess in the comments below
But if you know, don't tell us. We want to be surprised on Friday!

Or maybe they will do something more daring like this.
Click image if it is not clear

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