Slip slidin’ away
New York, New York
By Andrew Kelly
When an editor reaches out to you with: “Want an assignment that involves biking, drinking, Vikings and shopping carts?” there’s only one answer. And with that, I was Reuters’ assigned photographer for Idiotarod 2014.
The Idiotarod’s website describes it as: “an urban spoof of the Alaskan dog sled race”, namely, the Iditarod, which takes place around the same time.
The Alaskan race involves a grueling multi-day trek by dog sled across the Tundra, compared to the New York version, which consists of drunk hipsters pushing decorated shopping carts from bar to bar over a 5 mile route.
To add curiosity to the day, (as if it needed more) the Alaskan organizers had their lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter to those in New York, feeling that the similar name created confusion.
I rode over to Brooklyn to meet the Idiotarod racers at the starting point on another bitterly cold day in the city. Teams gathered, identified by themed uniforms. One team paid homage to Super Mario Brothers, another to former wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Regardless of how little they wore, it seemed only I could feel the cold. The party had already started. The centerpieces were the racing shopping carts, which matched the themes of their teams and were paraded with pride, and photographed by spectators and rivals alike. Spirits were definitely high.
An unofficial-official (no-one will admit to organizing the event) called teams in to announce the first checkpoint and it was on. A stream of racers ran into the streets, darting between traffic and confusing shoppers.
When checkpoint one had been reached and beers downed, the race headed toward further checkpoints. Snow began to fall and the already low temperature seemed to plummet.
As easy as it looked, it was obviously becoming something of a challenge to participate. Feet were dragging, teams were further spread out and checkpoints were becoming longer affairs. Personally, I was exhausted. Running with the participants, carrying cameras, constantly slipping on ice. It was very far from the walk in the park I’d imagined.
But it did provide a spectacle. The snow had driven residents in-doors, emptying the streets. Running with masked racers through a now empty Brooklyn, it felt as if the lunatics had taken over the asylum. It was just me and the lunatics.
Night fell as racers trudged the last leg into Manhattan. My fingers were frozen and my camera was now covered in snow. All invited me to join the post-race celebration in a bar but I was done. Soup. Shower. Bed. See you in 2015, Idiotarod.