Or, they probably will be by the time I’m done writing this blog.
The Last Great Race, aka the Iditarod will start in an hour and ten minutes from the time I scribe this sentence.
Most of us know the story of Balto and how a mushing relay was set up to rush the diptheria vaccine to Nome, to save the entire village during an epidemic in 1925. But the history of the race itself tends to get lost in the romance of the story that happened many years previous to the first Iditarod race.
The very first full length Iditarod race, from Anchorage to Nome was run in 1973. A few years previous, a shorter race was run on part of the trail in 1967 for the state’s bicentennial and then later again in 1969.
Originally, the trail was created in the 1920’s. It was a major thoroughfare for land travel, used to deliver mail overland to the villages that had sprung up during Alaska’s gold rush. Priests, ministers and judges traveled the trail via dog sled, performing ceremonies, giving last rites and upholding the law.
All too soon, the airplane became the main way of travel in Alaska and the dog-sled started to fall out of favor. Then snow machines replaced dog-sleds pretty much all together. People forgot that there was an Iditarod trail. It became overgrown from disuse.
A woman from Wasilla, Alaska, named Dorothy G. Page was a self-made historian. She recognized the importance of Alaska’s dog sledding history and set out to raise awareness. With the help of some long time recreational mushers, the first short course Iditarod (27 miles) was held in 1967 with a purse of $25,000. It ran again in 1969 with the short course.
Then, in 1972, the US Army cleared the trail as a winter exercise. So, in 1973, the race ran 1,049 miles from the Mat-Su Valley to Nome. Twenty-two mushers finished that year despite comments that it just couldn’t be done. The winner that year was Dick Wilmarth and he completed the race in just over 20 days.
To date, more than 400 finishers. Mushers from all over the world come to compete from as far away as Norway, France, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Italy, Canada, Britain and about 20 different states right here in the US.
The race is over 1,150 miles and starts in downtown Anchorage at the corner of 4th and D Street as it has since 1983. The length of the trail varies depending on which trail is used as it alternates between two different courses each year.
The fastest completion time was in 1995 by Doug Swingley. He completed the race in 9 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes and 19 seconds, to become the first musher from outside the state of Alaska to ever win the Championship.
So today, here in another 25 minutes approximately, dogs and mushers from around the globe will set off on this great race. Teams will leave the starting line two minutes apart. It will take between 9 to 12 days for the first musher to cross the finish line in Nome. The length of time varies greatly and depends on conditions sometimes beyond man’s control.
In Anchorage, those that put up Christmas lights this year will leave them on for a while yet. Anchorage, the City of Lights, will continue to keep those lights burning brightly until the last musher crosses the finish line and the race is officially over.
There are two routes, the Northern and the Southern. The trail alternates each year.
The teams average 15 dogs in size, which means that more than 1,000 dogs leave Anchorage for Nome each year
The most mushers to finish the race was 63 in 1992
Although most of the competing mushers are Alaskans, many other states have been represented in the Iditarod, including New York, Montana, Ohio, Alabama, Texas and California.
This year, there will be a dog sled team from Jamaica. You can read more about it here.
Possible Temperature Extremes During Race: +45 ° F to -60 ° F
Age Range of Mushers: 18 to 81
Checkpoints: There are 27 checkpoints along the trail (the first in Anchorage, the last in Nome) where mushers must sign in and where each musher’s 2,500 pounds of dog food has been distributed. A veterinarian is stationed at each checkpoint to provide care to the dogs.
Distance: 1,049 is a symbolic figure. (A thousand mile race in the 49th State.) The actual milage is closer to 1,200 miles, depending upon the route taken. The Iditarod is the longest dog sled race in the world.
Yep, I was right. The race started 7 minutes ago.
Just a reminder: I’m trying out new themes for my blog. I’ll be changing them every evening for about the next week, then putting up a poll you can vote on. Please feel free to leave your input about each theme I try in the comments section. Today’s new theme is “Pressrow”. The header is customizable and rotating, so just imagine blackberries and grapes and ponies alternating up there (because I’ll be having Bad Pants change it if it’s chosen) when you leave your comment with your opinion. Also, this is the last theme I’ll be trying out so a poll will be going up by Monday.