The annual Iditarod race (the 38th) begins in Alaska tomorrow (Saturday). The whole thing began back in 1925 in snowy Alaska where a Husky named Balto led a dogsled team across 600 miles of ice and snow to deliver diphtheria serum to Nome, AK, where an epidemic was underway. The man driving the sled became snow blind, so the dog led the team all by himself with the wind blowing 80 mph and the temperature 50 degrees below zero. The route later became the route for the Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race. Just in case you’re really interested, there’s a statue to Balto in Central Park, NY.
There’s a field of 71 mushers (56 men, 15 women) who’ll be leaving Anchorage and heading with their dog teams for Nome, 1112 miles away. This year –as in all even years, the teams will be taking the Northern Route, although both routes are part of the Iditarod National Historical Trail which was used in the early years for all winter travel. Back in the day, besides emergency supplies of medicine, dog sleds delivered the mail, the preacher, the groceries and hauled out gold and furs all the way to Anchorage or Fairbanks.
The teams average 16 dogs, and in case you’re wondering, the temperature this morning in Anchorage, is 28 degrees. In Nome, it’s around 3 degrees; with the windchill, -19.
Fastest winning time was in 2002, when MARTIN BUSER got all the way in 8 days, 22 hours and 46 minutes. Last year’s winner, LANCE MACKEY, took a bit over nine days to finish. Larry, who was Lance’s nine-year-old lead dog, retired last year after eight Iditarods (seven with Lance) and earning the coveted Golden Harness Award.
Top mushers this year include Lance, JEFF KING, KEN ANDERSON, PAUL GEBHARDT (all from the USA), HANS GATT (Canada), Martin Buser and MITCH SEAVEY (both from the USA as well). MARSHALL NEWTON is also entered –he’s from Jamaica!