1,000 miles across bitter arctic tundra, temperatures gusting down to a bone-chilling -100 Fahrenheit, and the raw power of 16 huskies to lead the way through the hostile clime. Yes, we suppose it’s safe to say the Iditarod is intense, albeit one of the toughest races on the planet.
Go ahead and mush that sled through two decades, and the next great competition was born. In 1994, a group of intrepid souls in San Francisco began a new legend. These dreamers re-envisioned the classic frozen race on the streets of a bustling metropolis. The idea was simple: humans replace the dogs and shopping carts stand in for sleds — and it started to spread around the world like so many massive polar vortex storms. They would call it: The Idiotarod.
Since 2004 in New York City, ingenious teams have traded in four-legged speed demons for costumes, carts and the DIY race of a lifetime. This Saturday marks the 10th Annual Idiotarodorama NYC (a.k.a. The Desistarod*) to hit the five boroughs. We talked with the enigmatic “Dr. Smith,” who serves as the Director of Communications over at IDIOT Labs, to get his take on the race. “The Idiotarod is all about putting a ridiculous amount of effort into an insipid activity, all for the sake of having an amazing, unique, memorable experience,” says Dr. Smith. “It’s about being creative and silly and probably someone else than you are for the rest of the year.”
Before the race, each group builds their own “vehicle,” keeping all parts of the original cart somewhere in the final design. Good-natured sabotage and bribery are encouraged, as is all-out madness when it comes to getting the edge ahead of the competition. “The beauty of the Idiotarod is that there are no really set award categories, beyond best in show,” Dr. Smith explains. “Just impress us – come up with a brilliant theme, excellent construction, gorgeous costuming, great bribes. If you're fabulous enough, we'll craft the category around you.”
And brilliant themes there have been many. Dr. Smith says a Danger Zone themed cart a few years back really set the bar high for furture Idiotarod teams. “I’ve had some personal favorites, too,” he says. “Twin Peaks and Pee Wee’s Playcart to name a couple. And last year we had Carts full of Binders full of Women, which just made me laugh — and still is making me laugh.”
Due to the secretive and spontaneous nature of the event, curious spectators are encouraged to follow @idiotarodnyc on Twitter to get the details of the race. (The start point is announced to all participants the night before the big day.) They’ll also give out handy info on the location of checkpoints along the course, where teams must compete in special challenges and trials in order to advance. And be sure to keep an eye out from some imaginative (and insanely awesome) machinery. According to Dr. Smith, “last year's Cartapult, which flung flaming carts across the Gowanus Ballroom, smashing the carts against the wall, was pretty spectacular.”
And will they do anything especially outrageous this year to mark a decade of Idiotarodorama NYC*? “Yes, or we think it’s special,” Dr. Smith hints. “But obviously we can’t tell you. IDIOT Labs intellectual property, you know.” Raw hedonism. Pure ambition. Let’s do this!
*Due to a cease and desist letter from the attorneys of the Actual Iditarod Dog Sled Race, Idiotarod NYC has been renamed “Idiotarodorama NYC” (a.k.a. “The Desistarod”) effect on January 24, 2014