More than 200 people gathered in Dawson City on Sept. 1 for one of the territory’s oldest running events – the Great Klondike International Outhouse Race.
The race started in the 1970s as a five-kilometre race for serious runners, but has evolved over time to become a shorter, more jovial, tongue-in-cheek event in recent years.
Hosted by the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA), the race pits teams of five against each other to try to complete the race and challenges as fast as possible — all while pushing an outhouse through the streets of Dawson.
This year, the team from the Westmark Hotel — the Just Doo-Doo Its — were the winners after defeating the second-place Downtown Hotel team and third-place Dawson City Visitor Information Centre team.
“It’s a great thing,” said Paul Robitaille, marketing and events manager for the KVA. “For visitors, they think it’s such a unique, weird, wacky thing.”
The KVA has six outhouses teams can use for the event. They’re made of stainless steel and weigh between 50 and 75 pounds.
“Not super light, but not that heavy,” said Robitaille.
Weight can increase though with decorations. While most teams use cardboard or perhaps plywood to decorate the outhouses, Robitaille said sometimes teams get a bit more ambitious.
“I ran on a team where we had a wood-fired barbecue strapped to it,” said Robitaille about a past race. “That was heavy.”
Starting in the parking lot of Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, teams run five laps of a loop down Queen Street to Third Avenue to King Street to Fourth Avenue and back to Queen Street.
After each lap, teams had to complete tasks before continuing. Those tasks are usually potty-themed, Robitaille said, and are added to try to keep the race competitive.
This year, that didn’t work.
“I think every challenge (the Westmark team) finished on their first try,” said Robitaille. “The other two teams really struggled and they tried to cheat, and still didn’t win.”
Robitaille said one of the other teams took a shortcut down an alley, cutting off a quarter of a lap.
“The Westmark team won it pretty handily — they lapped the third place team.”
When the race first started, teams would often stop for a tipple at one — or more — of Dawson’s many adult establishments, though since the KVA took over the race there has been an effort to make the event more spectator-friendly by keeping racers on the street and adding challenges out in full view of spectators.
“We‘ve tried to keep the tradition going, but the numbers have been a little bit lower the last few years,” said Robitaille. “In the past we said if we didn’t have four (teams), we wouldn’t do it. But it’s one of those things if you didn’t do it, people wouldn’t be very happy about it.”
As long as the race continues to be a hit with fans, it seems safe from being flushed.
“Visitors love watching the spectacle whether there are three teams or 10,” said Robitaille. “You get to see what an outhouse race means. In that sense, it was a great event because we had a great turnout, the weather was good and nobody got hurt, which is always good because running with an outhouse can be a little sketchy at times.”
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