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It happens every winter, all around the world. (Okay, maybe not all around the world, but in a handful of willing cities like Portland and Chicago.) Deeply-ish steeped in tradition, the game is an homage to Mother Nature and the rugged wilderness, with a few notable, decidedly urban changes. It is called Idiotarod, and it involves dressing up in costume, tying yourself to a shopping cart, and running around the sidewalks in pure denial of winter, which sounds much more proactive than trapping yourself indoors with warm drinks and some Ken Burns docs until June rolls around.
Inspired by--as the organization puts it--“a famous and totally unrelated dogsled race in Alaska,” Idiotarod takes its name from Iditarod (what a difference a vowel makes), where mushers send teams of dogs less lazy than the one sitting on your couch right now through 1000 miles of legitimate terrain. The city-based Idiotarod, however, has altered its own concept accordingly, making some necessary concessions given the inherent differences between Brooklyn and, say, Anchorage.
Here, we’ve dug around to see how the urban take stacks up to the original. If Idiotarod seems right up your alley, you can participate in New York City January 24. If you’re a purist at heart, Iditarad doesn’t get moving until March 7, which gives you plenty of time to start organizing your team of dogs.
Idiotarod: The original race took place in San Francisco in 1994.
Iditarod: The race has evolved competitively since its first official run in 1973, but the Iditarod Trail was used previously as a mail and supply route from coastal towns to interior mining camps. This trail was essentially the early 20th-century equivalent of a freeway. The Iditarod keeps that vastly less efficient dream of yore alive.
VEHICLE OF CHOICE
Idiotarod: A (likely stolen) shopping cart
Iditarod: Sled guided by a team of ambitious, undaunted Huskies
Idiotarod: Until whenever your friends think this was a ridiculous idea and “Hey, let’s just stop in this bar…”
Iditarod: 1000 miles of rugged, unforgiving, mountainous terrain
Idiotarod: You must dress up… like an idiot. Costume ideas including (but not limited to): bananas, monsters, cans of SPAM, citizens of the fallen Roman empire, superheroes, and pirates.
Iditarod: “There are certain pieces of equipment each team must have — an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog’s feet to protect against cutting ice and hard packed snow injuries.” Sounds serious.
Idiotarod: Weakness of fellow teammates, your own diminishing enthusiasm, your costume’s lack of seasonally appropriate coverage
Iditarod: “Jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate tundra, and miles of windswept coast” plus “temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs.”
Photos courtesy of Sons of Samhorn, BlueJake.com, and Wikipedia.