This year — like the 44 years before it — 75 teams will line up at a starting line in Anchorage Alaska and will embark on one of the longest, most dangerous, and most unique races in the world. The 45th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race starts this Tuesday, March 4th.
The Iditarod is the most prestigious sled dog race in the world, annually hosting the top dogs and sledders– called ‘mushers’ to those in the know. These teams will charge across 1000 miles of frozen territory over the course of nine to fifteen days, braving the sub-zero temperatures, blizzard conditions, and gale- force winds of Alaska’s tundras, mountains, and forests. The route of the course follows trails used by Native Alaskan Eskimo Inupiaq and Athabaskan peoples over three centuries before the arrival of Russian and European pelt traders. The trail was then used by sled dog teams in the 20th century to deliver mail, supplies, and medicine to the furthest tip of Alaska. The most famous of these trips being the 1925 ‘Great Race of Mercy’, where 20 teams of mushers worked in relay fashion to deliver 20 pounds of antitoxin to the diptheria epidemic of Nome. They covered the 674 miles in just five and a half days.
Nowadays, the Iditarod follows part of that path to honor and emulate the bravery of early Alaskan settlers. Teams are made up of one musher and between 12 and 16 dogs, who pull the sled in alternating shifts through the 26 checkpoints along the way. The race has become a huge event to Alaskans, and the winners can expect to become local heroes. The race got more national attention in 1985 when Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the race in a long-shot victory.
In 2017, the teams will meet once again at the starting line to compete in a historic race to the finish. No one can know what will happen in the 350 miles between, but here at Horizons Sports well be watching. If you want to watch too, there is live coverage and GPS tracking available at their website at http://iditarod.com/ . May the best musher win!
by Jane Sadler