March 10, 2012

The Last Great Race on Earth

This past weekend marked the start of the 40th Iditarod, the "last great race on earth".  And in honor of both the Iditarod and IditaZooTM, a family-friendly event held at the zoo every year during the Iditarod sled dog race, I thought I would share a little big about this exciting time in Alaskan history.

The Iditarod is an annual sled dog race that runs from Anchorage up to Nome, AK.  The ceremonial start is always the first Saturday in March and takes place downtown Anchorage on 4th Ave.  The official start takes place the next day in Willow, AK, an hour and a half north of Anchorage.  

The trail is composed of two routes: a northern route, which is run on even-numbered years, and a southern route, which is run on odd-numbered years. This year's northern route runs 975 miles from Anchorage to Nome. With a team of 12-16 sled dogs, mushers usually cover this distance in 9-15 days. Last year's winner John Baker, set the record for the current fastest winning time, with a time of 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds.  

Along the 975 mile Northern route, there 26 checkpoints where mushers must sign in. Some mushers prefer to camp on the trail and immediately press on, but others stay and rest at these checkpoints. Mushers purchase supplies and equipment in Anchorage, such as food, extra booties for the dogs, batteries, tools, sled parts, etc., and these are flown ahead to each checkpoint.

Here's a few pictures I took at last year's ceremonial start...

Deedee Jonrowe, breast cancer survivorand Iditarod competitior since 1980.  To read more on her story click here.

I definitely applaud those who compete in the Iditarod.  My heart goes out to both the mushers and their dog teams.  It is such an exciting, yet brutal, race.  Few settings would be more physically, and mentally, demanding than the open Alaskan wilderness along the Iditarod Trail. 

For more information, including rules, musher profiles and current standings, visit the official Iditarod website here. Click here to view the GPS tracker.

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