Rules of the CHIditarod

Planning to race? Know the rules. Bending them could get you DISQUALIFIED.


Who can race?
Anyone and everyone should race, provided you are at least 21 years old. Spread the word by forwarding this web site to anyone you know.

Does weather affect the race?
Absolutely not. The race goes off rain or shine, blizzard, breeze or tornado. In 2006 it was 50 degrees and sunny. In 2007 and 2008 it was snowing. In 2014 it was in the teens and snowing. What does this mean? Two words: Be prepared! There is no bad weather, just poor wardrobe choices.

What is this going to cost me?
Your dignity. Plus an entry fee. Check out our pricing and registration info. One of the best things about the CHIditarod is that there are tons of ways to participate and win. See our prizes page for the latest information on how you can be a winner with the CHIditarod.

How do I register?
Please visit our registration page and follow all instructions carefully. Don’t jeopardize your chances of racing because you didn’t read all of the instructions. Registration is limited to 170 teams and closes on February 21st. There will be NO race-day registration.

What’s the race route?
That’s up to you. Each team receives a timecard & map of checkpoints they must go to in the order listed and not skip any checkpoints. Checkin the day off starts at 9:45am and closes at 11:45am. The epic start to the race is at 12:30 pm SHARP. Each team chooses its own path between the start, each of the checkpoints, and the finish. Your team will stay at each checkpoint for 25 minutes before continuing on your journey.

What is good food to donate?
The Greater Chicago Food Depository requests that you please do not bring items in glass jars or any kind of candy or toiletries. They request these types of food items: grains, pasta, cereal, canned fruit and vegetables, beans, peanut butter, canned tuna, shelf stable milk (does not need to be refrigerated), canned soups, jelly (remember no glass jars), chili, macaroni & cheese. All items need to be non-perishable and shelf stable. Please see the Food Drive page.

Can we drop off food in advance with GCFD?
Yes! We have coordinated specific dates and times with Greater Chicago Food Depository. Please note, if you have 300 lbs or more of food (or if you think you have more than 1 shopping carts worth of food) you may drop off the Monday-Wednesday before the race. If you have less than that, you will need to be prepared to bring food the day of the race to donate.

Should we also wear costumes?
Absolutely. Definitely. Creativity is a huge part of this event. Wild costumes and insane themes are not required per se, but wholly encouraged. The most important rule of CHIditarod is… fun is mandatory. 95% of all teams have costumed themes. It’s epic. Pure street theater. Google around for past photos and inspiration! Please be tasteful with your costumes, it’s super lame if your costume could be construed as offensive.

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CHIditarod Core Philosophy

The primary mission of the CHIditarod is to harness the love and energy of Chicagoans to forge positive relationships and social good across our communities. The annual CHIditarod race aims to accomplish this goal by fostering a culture of mutual care and creative community engagement.

Flagrant violation of these core philosophies will result in exclusion from the event; violations include, but are not limited to, disrespecting others or the property of others, displaying inappropriate racial or cultural stereotypes, participating in or promoting hate speech, enacting sabotage that borders on assault, and wasting food for sabotage or other ill-conceived purposes. Such behaviors bring harm to members of our community and are therefore harmful to all of us.

All participants and volunteers are required to read and agree to uphold the core philosophy before participating in the event.

Racing Rules

General Team Rules

      • Teams consist of exactly 5 people. The carts must be pulled doggie-sled style: four people in front with ropes pulling the cart (the dawgs), and one person running behind the cart steering (the musher). This configuration represents the theoretically ideal power-to-steerage ratio of 4:1, and must be observed at all times.
      • Dawgs and mushers are free to trade off at the checkpoints. All team members must finish together – no stray dawgs! (Of course dawgs and musher may run free while they’re being watered at the checkpoints.) There will be Bike Marshals along the route to ensure proper form, function, and of course, safety.
      • No facemasks at the starting line, checkpoints, or finish line.
      • No assisted movement other than your own feet (sorry roller derby girls – we still love you).

Can we try to prevent other teams from winning? i.e. SABOTAGE?
Maybe. You MUST READ the Sabotage Rules for the full schtick.

Can I SABOTAGE other teams?
This bears repeating…you MUST READ the Sabotage Rules.

The CHIditarod is a food drive — 65 pounds per cart is required!
In addition to being an outstandingly fun time, the CHIditarod is first and foremost a food drive. Your team must show up with 65 pounds of food or more to race in the CHIditarod!

Can we use public transportation?
No. That is cheating. Cheating is not allowed.

Can we use private transportation?
No. This occurred in 2007 by the Bunnies (there are hilarious photos). Be assured that this will result in immediate disqualification and public flogging.

Can I bring my real dogs?
No…please, no.

Should I respect all local laws and ordinances, including those governing traffic, littering, dumping, and alcohol consumption on the public way?

Who has the final say?
The judges have final say over all prizes and winners. This is complete and final.  Judges have sole discretion over all points awarded or deducted, prizes awarded, which prizes are being awarded, race rules, all laws of physics, what time it is, and what happened in the past, all of which are subject to change without notice.

Leave No Trace

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Each team must complete the race in the order specified on their route map (received the morning-of at registration). When you arrive at your checkpoint, 4 team members must be there to checkin. Check in with the cart wrangler who has a bright yellow/green safety vest on. They will have something for you. You will need this something to finish your checkin at the bar. Once you receive this special something, go inside and hand this special something along with your race card and give it to the checkin person (look for a computer).


At every bar there are fun contests for you and your teammates to participate in them. These are not required but a large piece of the fun and excitement about CHIditarod. We HIGHLY recommend you participate.


Yes, you read that right… bribes. Checkpoint volunteers love being bribed for numerous amounts of things. No volunteers at CHIditarod, bike marshals included, can require a team to bribe them, BUT! bribes do help grease the wheels of the volunteers.


Does my team need to bring its own shopping cart?
Yes. Read more about carts in the FAQ.

CART DEPOSIT, or “What do I do with my cart after the race?”

tl;dr — LEAVE NO TRACE! Pack it in, pack it out. Your cart is your responsibility. Take the cart back to a supermarket. Donate it. Gift it. Just don’t abandon it. Every year many teams choose to burden those that have produced the event with their cart. We understand that you are hung-over, well so are we! This has happened enough times that we require a $80 cart insurance deposit which you must pay during registration. If you abandon your cart, you forfeit your $80 cart deposit.During check-in you will receive a Bib Number. You MUST attach this bib number to the front of your cart. Plan for this, it is important for you to receive your refund. If you haven’t figured it out, we take this VERY SERIOUSLY! Plain and simple: TAKE YOUR CART HOME with you after the race. Don’t lose any instructions you receive.

New for 2015, the Starting Line and the Finish line are in the same place. You will be able to leave your cart at the finish line overnight! If you would like to take your cart home on Saturday (Race Day) you must remove it from the yard by 6:30 pm. The gate will lock at 6:30pm. The gate will be open again on Sunday from 12 pm – 2 pm. At 2:01 the gates lock and you have forfeited your cart deposit. While you may be hungover, we are too and by Sunday we’ve been rodding for about 70 straight hours. You may not dismantle your cart in the yard. There is nowhere for you to leave trash, remember this is Leave No Trace event.

Please make sure to follow the Cart Vixen’s instructions, and take a picture of your cart with the card. This card is located inside your racer packet that you receive at checkin. A copy of the card will be located under the page Racer Resources.

Modifying and Decorating your Cart

Please do. Everyone does. There are some rules — kind of like stock car racing — and they differ slightly depending on whether or not your team chooses the Racer or Art Cart category. The following rules apply to BOTH shopping carts and Art Carts:

      • All designs must be made with full regard to both safety and all relevant civil, criminal, and physical laws.
      • All carts need to fit onto the sidewalk (this is a pedestrian race).
      • All four “dawgs” must pull the cart with ropes of some sort.
      • In case of deep snow or treacherous ice, you can attach some sort of sled substructure to the bottom of the cart.
      • You can attach things to your cart, make a riding platform, and grease up your wheels.
      • You can also chop up the cart and rearrange the pieces — but they all have to be attached somewhere else on the cart. All original pieces must be accounted for.

The following rules apply ONLY TO RACER (REGULAR) SHOPPING CARTS:

      • Your shopping cart cannot be motorized, nor can you use any type of bike/pedal structure for propulsion.
      • You must use a normal-sized cart, i.e. not one of those baby carts from Whole Foods.
      • Your shopping cart must roll on at least 4 normal cart-sized rubber caster wheels.
      • Your cart should be able to fit (with whatever effort necessary) through a regular front-door-sized opening.

The following rules apply ONLY TO ART CARTS:

      • Art Carts don’t have to fit through a standard-size door frame.
      • Art Carts can use non-standard wheels and different sized carts.
      • Art Carts can have mechanical aspects, but can not have mechanical propulsion.
      • You have “roaming privileges”, meaning you aren’t required to hit EVERY checkpoint. You may be required to hit certain checkpoints (your race card will tell you).
      • You cannot win any prize based on race time, finishing position, or sabotage. However, you can win other prizes and there is a special prize for Best Art Cart.
      • You cannot sabotage. Period. Unless you like disqualification.
      • You still have to bring the required poundage to the starting line, start the race with everyone else and cross the finish line at a reasonable time.
      • You still need to register and do a cart deposit like everyone else.
      • Admission into this category is not automatic and requires judges’ approval. There will be a cap on the number of Art Cart participants in this category. If you are interested, register ASAP with a description of your Art Cart idea in the comments box and we’ll get back to you with the judges’ decision on inclusion. If your entry for an Art Cart is denied, you can re-apply or race traditionally. Remember, registration is first-fully-completed, first-served.
      • To save our sanity, we will stop processing Art Cart registrations EARLY. No Art Carts will be admitted the day of the race without prior registration.

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