The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome….entirely within the US State of Alaska….whereby mushers and a team of 16 sled dogs….of which at least 5 must be on the towline at the finish line…..while covering the distance of 566 kilometers (346 miles) in 8–15 days or more. The Iditarod began in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams but evolved into today’s highly competitive race….as teams generally race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach −100 °F (−73 °C).
A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow….a city 80 mi (128.75 km) north of Anchorage….then the trail runs from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior….then along the shores of the Bering Sea…..and finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills, mountain passes and across rivers….while passing through widely separated towns and villages….and small Athabaskan and Iñupiat eskimo settlements. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
The race is a very important and popular sporting event in Alaska….as the top mushers and their teams of dogs are local celebrities….whereby this popularity is credited with the resurgence of recreational mushing in the state since the 1970’s. While the yearly field of more than fifty mushers and about a thousand dogs is still largely Alaskan….competitors from 14 countries have completed the event including the Swiss Martin Buser….who became the first foreign winner in 1992.
The Iditarod received more attention outside of the state after the 1985 victory of Libby Riddles, as seen in this video herewith with her two lead dogs Axle and Dugan ….who weren’t even considered to a a chance to win….but became the first woman to win the race. The next year, Susan Butcher became the second woman to win the race….as she went on to win three more years. Any way you cut the pie….this competitive dog race is not for the faint of heart….as it requires some “bad ass attitude” just to finish the race.