New Race Series Features Pillow Fights, Shopping Carts, and Slam Dunks

Richard Handy has figured out how to change the world: invite a bunch of people to dress up in costume, tell them there will be beer, some light athletic competition, and maybe some pillow fighting, and they’ll show up in droves to tackle a community project. Handy has created a series of (mildly) athletic events designed to harness the power of the group to do some community good.

“With a race, you’ve got all these people in one place,” Handy says.  “Why not use all those able bodies to tackle a community project?”

Handy created and organized the Asheville Idiotarod in 2009, where 260 people showed up dressed in costumes to race a 5K while pushing a decorated shopping cart. Along the way, competitors deconstructed a building that was to be repurposed as an arts center. In less than 30 minutes, the massive group of “volunteers” pulled thousands of nails from two by fours and stacked the wood neatly under a shed.

“It would have taken a small crew several days to get that done. We did it in half an hour and then had beers at the after party,” says Eric Seeger, one of the Idiotarod runners.

Based on the Idiotarod’s success, Handy has created an entire race series in Asheville, where each event will include what Handy calls the Five Stars of Success: athletics, beer, music, community service, and costumes. Each race will have at least one large community project associated with it, so athletes will get their hands dirty while they compete. For instance, at the Basketball 5K, runners will dribble a basketball the entire length of the course, and stop to plant trees along the way.

“If we get 500 people planting three trees each, we can reforest an entire side of town,” Handy says.

Each race is part of Handy’s Race for Awesomeness Series, which features one bizarre competition a month designed to encourage people to give back to their community on a regular basis. Each competition is followed by an after party. raceforawesomeness.com

THE AWESOMENESS SERIES
Field Day of Awesomeness: Moon Walk Relay, Dizzy Bat spins, and every other competition you wish your school’s Field Day offered. Teams of four compete, and all proceeds go to help fund Asheville City Schools. April 18.

Idiotarod: Teams dress up in themes and push a shopping cart through a downtown 5K course complete with multiple community challenges. The after party from last year’s Idiotarod has become legendary. May.

The Basketball 5k: Participants, dressed as either basketball players or cheerleaders, dribble a basketball through the 5K course. Along the route there are four community project challenges and the slam-dunk at the finish. Participants can try to knock other runners’ basketballs away. June.

The Pillow Fighting Championships: Bike jousting, fat suit wrestling, bed racing, a massive community project, and serious pillow fighting. Keep an eye out for the Victoria’s Secret award. July 4th.

Big Bad Bunny: An urban scavenger hunt with 12 challenges. Teams of three decipher puzzles and clues. Actors are also placed around town to assist people in their hunt. Additional points for those dressed up as partial or full rabbits. Autumn.