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The Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Thirty-four years after it was first run, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race still bills itself as "The Last Great Race on Earth," and the history and tradition of the event help to support this claim. The annual race is held to commemorate the historic serum run back in 1925, when a diphtheria epidemic threatened the town of Nome, Alaska. With bad weather in the area keeping airplanes on the ground, the much needed serum was raced 674 miles from Nenana to Nome by dog team in 127.5 hours.

Copyright © 2001 Darren Smith and licensors. All rights reserved

Today, the race covers more than 1,150 miles, from Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast. Each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover the entire course in times that range from under 10 days to three weeks. The race begins in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March, with a ceremonial run in the downtown area. The dogs are then trucked 40 miles north to Wasilla*, where the official race begins on Sunday. Each year the race take a slightly different course, alternating between an 1,161-mile southern route (held in odd-numbered years) and an 1,151-mile northern route (held in even-numbered years).
The route begins in the relatively moderate Anchorage climate on the Cook Inlet coast. After leaving civilization at Knik, the mushers only encounter small towns and villages until they reach the historic gold rush town of Nome, situated on the shores of the Bering Sea. Along the way, they cross the Alaska Range, wind more than 200 miles along the Yukon River, and travel along the frozen Norton Sound. The Iditarod Trail takes its name from the 19th century Athabascan Indian village on the Iditarod River near the site of a 1908 gold discovery. Today, it is primarily a winter-use trail with only relatively small portions useable during snow free seasons.


Other useful resources:

Iditarod.com - Office Site of the Last Great Race  

Dogsled.com - provides information and history of the race, current standings, chat forums, and a live webcast of the start of the race.

Map for 2006 Race - includes general route and all checkpoints. 

Iditarod Sled Dog Race - includes coverage of the race, including historical background and photographs, by the Anchorage Daily News.

Mushing Magazine - bimonthly magazine with information on dog sledding, skijoring, carting, dog packing, and weight pulling.

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