The Idiotarod is a shopping cart race in which teams of five "idiots" tie themselves to a (sometimes modified) grocery store shopping cart and run through the streets of a major metropolitan area. The race usually features people in costumes and themed floats. The races are fun competitions where sabotage, costume, and presentation are rewarded. Sabotage, such as tripping competitors, throwing marbles or large obstacles in their paths, and the spreading of misinformation such as false route information, is common.
The Idiotarod is named after the Iditarod, a 1,000 mile dog-sledding race in Alaska.
Idiotarods take place in Ann Arbor, Asheville, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Iowa City, New York City, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, St. Louis, Toronto, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Washington, D.C. though the original race was founded in San Francisco in 1994 as the "Urban Iditarod".
The Portland Urban Iditarod, which began in March 2001, runs through a course over four miles through downtown Portland, Oregon. This race occurs on the first Saturday of March, the same date as the actual Alaskan Iditarod. Racers wear "absurd" costumes, including Spanish bullfighters and diaper-wearing astronauts, and make stops at pubs and bars along the way. There are no winners or losers in the Portland event, but other cities offer a "Best in Show" prize.
Chicago's Urban Iditarod or Chiditarod, has been held annually on the first Saturday in March since 2006. Historically the race has occurred in and around the Chicago neighborhood of West Town. Much like other Urban Iditarods, a Chiditarod team includes 5 participants: 4 dawgs and a musher. Teams are required to use a regular shopping cart and are not allowed to modify the cart's original caster wheels. Beyond this limitation, teams are encouraged to take artistic liberties with their carts and participants often decorate their carts in highly creative ways and dress in costume to match their team's theme. Like a traditional race, teams compete to finish the course in as little time as possible, while making designated stops at checkpoints along the course. Participating teams are allowed to sabotage each other in order to gain advantage but most teams engage in sabotage merely for bragging rights. In the spirit of radical inclusion, the Chiditarod organizers hand out a number of awards in a variety of categories giving participants the freedom to compete in the fields they are best suited for.
The landmark of the Chiditarod is the event's charitable aspect. Billing itself as "Probably the world's largest mobile food drive," the Chiditarod plays an important role in helping raise foods for Chicago's food depositories. Teams are asked to donate a minimum amount of high protein, non perishable food items. Another notable innovation is the organization's approach to self-policing. In an effort to keep all participants safe throughout the course, the Chiditarod deploys bike marshals who act as roaming course deputies: resolving disputes between teams, mitigating destructive sabotage, safeguarding participant conduct and lending a helping hand whenever necessary.
In 2014, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race sent a cease-and-desist order to Iditarod NYC, asserting that the name "Idiotarod" infringed its trademark in "Iditarod." Idiotarod NYC characterized the letter as "frivolous threats of legal action", but renamed the event to "Idiotarodorama NYC (aka 'The Desistarod')".
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