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The Chiditarod Urban Iditarod, a shopping cart race and mobile food drive, is an idea stolen from some folks in New York (who in turn stole it from some people in San Francisco).

Inspired in part by the Alaskan Iditarod dog sled race, an urban iditarod replaces dogs and sleds with shopping carts and costumed heroes.

Tobias Fünke 12011 was the sixth annual running of the race in Chicago and this year the start of the race coincided with the start of the Alaskan Iditarod race. The weather in the morning was cool with some light snow flurries and continued to deteriorate over the next several hours. Winds kicked up. Snow turned heavier and icy. Whirl and I dressed for the weather, packed up the cameras and spent the afternoon running alongside the racers on the streets of East Village, Wicker Park and Ukranian Village shooting the race. Whirl reprised her standout role as photo shoot producer, providing operational support and keen insight into composition and dramatic moments worth capturing.

She also was our navigator, which was no easy task. There were a total of twelve checkpoints. Each team had to complete a circuit of five of these checkpoints. So two given teams would not necessarily follow the same route, in fact no specific route is prescribed. Teams must appear the the assigned checkpoints in the appropriate order. That made it somewhat challenging to capture the entire scope of the race with a single camera. We tried!

The race did not disappoint. There were over 170 teams and the mass start was truly something to behold as racers streamed down the street and out into the surrounding neighborhoods to their respective checkpoints. We ran into one of Whirl’s classmates who had worked on one of the most incredible entries of the race, the immense ten-man Titanic entry. Their entry actually comprised two teams of five racers each. One team was the bow of the doomed oceanliner, one team was the stern. Of course the ship was appropriatedly broken across the beam.

Titanic 3We saw two teams of Muppets, three teams of Black Swans, Angry Birds, Gnomes, an Oregon Trail team — complete with a boombox broadcasting the appropriate 8-bit MIDI soundtrack.

The Chiditarod is not just fun and games however. It is a food drive that collects thousands of pounds of food for the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation every year. Additionally, checkpoint hosts donate signification portions of their proceeds from the day’s events to charity. All of the teams, carts, costumes and creativity are donated — put together out of spare time, ingenuity and willingness to do something good for other people.

Devo 1 Derailers 1 Don't Tread On Me 1 Samurai 1 Finish Strong