Quick now: What kind of racing team has three members and eight legs?
A ride-and-tie team -- a horse plus two men who alternately ride and run.
Their sport, a western import, will be on display this Saturday at noon as about 35 teams compete in a six-mile and a 14-mile race over a hilly course at Braddock Road Park in Clifton, Virginia.
The Clifton Horse Society, which began sponsoring ride- and-tie races here in 1981, expects competitors from as far away as Utah and New England.
Ride-and-tie was not originally a form of racing; it was simply a means of long-distance transportation in the West for two people who had only one horse. But in 1970, Bud Johns, a history buff and an official of the Levi Strauss Co., happened upon the story of a rancher and his son who used the ride-and-tie method to catch some rustlers who had left them only one horse. He built on that to create a promotional event for the company, and now ride-and-tie is popular in the western U.S. and around the world.
More than 160 teams participated in Levi's 12th annual race last July in Eureka, California, and more than 200 races are conducted internationally each year.
The rules are simple: The two runners must take turns riding and must exchange positions at least three times during the race. At the halfway point there's a mandatory pulse check for the horse.
The difficult part is finding two people of equal abilities in running and riding. Most novices assume that the runners' speed and stamina are the key, but some Olympic distance runners who have tried the event are quick to disagree.
The better teams have two good riders who have trained for running rather than two top runners who have learned how to ride. Competitors say that learning to be a better rider is tougher than getting into condition as a runner. ON-AND-OFF RACING You can view the races at the start/finish line on Braddock Road, or along the trails in the woods of Braddock Road Park. Both races will start at noon, with the 14-mile event expected to take about 2 1/2 hours. TO REACH THE PARK: From the Beltway, take I-66 to the Centreville exit; go south and turn left onto Lee Highway (Routes 29 and 211); turn right at first light onto Braddock Road; park is about one mile on the right. For further information, contact race chairman Rick Peck at 830-1933.