Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rondy '11 Part 3: The Running of the Reindeer

I suppose The Running of the Reindeer needs some explaining.

Probably, it needs a lot of explaining.

Think of The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.  Now remove the bulls and substitute reindeer. Remove the certainty of injury by goring and replace it with a faint chance of injury by falling in the snow and being stepped on by another runner. Remove every shred of seriousness and replace it with the-sillier-the-better. Remove Pamplona altogether and replace it with the downtown Anchorage business district. In fact, remove all similarities except that people run in a street with hoofed animals.

Got it? Okay. Now we can begin.

Runners race down two blocks of Fourth Avenue with about a dozen male reindeer released behind them. At the other end of Fourth Avenue is a trailer containing a doe in heat, which keeps the males not only running, but running in a predictable, relatively straight line towards her. There are no prizes for winning or anything like that, it's just fun and wacky, which is honestly a point unto itself.

Last year, Jim and I were spectators. This year, we were runners.

Anyone can participate in The Running, and there are people who come for Rondy from all over the world, and some of them join in the race right along with the crazy fun-loving locals. The reindeer, by the way, are local, too. (I forgot where the ranch is located, though.) It costs $25 per person with proceeds benefiting Toys For Tots. There are four "herds" - the Military, the Men, the Women, and Groups. Here, the male reindeer are walked to the starting line after the first group of runners are already in place:

The race organizers decided to try something new this year - Antlercam! It did not go as planned......
He scraped the Antlercam off in the street.

This is my favorite photo of the reindeer this year. A young buck posing for my camera, wearing his purple RotR cowbell. Um, deerbell. Sorry. 

The Military herd wasn't too exciting, because they were all dressed in fatigues and probably all sober. So I don't have any interesting photos of that. But up next, the Men's herd! The emcee asked all the men who were mostly bare to come to the front, where they proceeded to dance about in Rondy-spirit abandon, and were only too happy to oblige when the emcee told them to give him some pushups in the street. While they were doing their pushups, the crowd threw snow at them. Ah, good times. I should probably mention that although costumes are not required, they ARE encouraged, and you can (I highly suggest it, in fact) click on these photos to enlarge them and see some of the costumes better.

 The men's herd runs past shortly before the reindeer catch up to them:

Yes, that's a banana. And a tooth with a giant toothbrush. The big plywood carrot (probably to lure in the reindeer? I dunno) is coming, and in front of him is the hairyman from my previous post.

When you watch the videos in my next post, you'll see Jim's point of view as he runs. You'll see the easy landmark of the plywood carrot go by, and that's about when this photo of Jim was taken. He's wearing his beaver trapper hat, khaki pants and a dark jacket and is holding the camera over his head, right in front of the guy wearing bib number 121.

The snow was very loose and slippery from having been spread out after the Iditarod ceremonial start, which was only a few hours before this. Lots of people fell in the snow, but other runners good-naturedly helped them up and retrieved lost bits of costumes, and the race continued with no harm done. This is the closest I saw to an actual mishap - when a reindeer ran between me (on the sidelines) and a cameraman, and the cameraman jumped back to avoid the deer and fell on his bohunkus. He got back up when the deer passed, though, and kept filming.

We don't have any still photos of me running with the Women's herd, because I was busy running and Jim was operating the video camera. We also managed not to get any stills of the Groups herd. I can't believe we did that. You'll just have to wait for the video. 

As we were leaving the downtown area that evening, we passed a group of Rondy pin collectors, and asked to take their photo outside of the official Rondy store. Rondy pins are quite collectible if you're into that sort of thing, as these people evidently were!

In my next post, I'll have the videos of the races for you to see, and you'll especially want to see the Groups herd. That's where the best costumes are. See you then!

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