Do you hear the heavy panting of a dozen dogs, fierce mushing and paws rapidly stomping on ice? Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska, and Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth®. Every year in early March, people of all walks of life - lawyers, doctors, miners, and more - gather with their team of dogs to participate in an homage to the dogsledding tradition. The first Saturday in March, which is March 7 this year, mushers will start their journey of more than 1,000 miles on a variety of terrains, facing the Alaskan cold.
Many will trek to see the kick-off of the event, increasing tourism for the area. Joe Redington Sr. has been dubbed the "Father of the Iditarod," who created it to save dog sled culture and preserve the Iditarod Trail. During the 1970s, dog sledding was waning with the introduction of faster transportation. But with journalists, film crews, spectators and volunteers flocking to the annual Alaskan event, it’s safe to say he fulfilled his goal.
In addition to being a race, Iditarod is a city, river and trail. It means "distant" or "distant place" in indigenous Alaskan languages and is a city located on its nominal river. The Iditarod dog-sled race alternates routes given the year: for even-numbered years the northern route is used, and for odd-numbered years the southern route is used. The southern route came at a later date to increase the exposure to neighboring villages, with the passing through the city Iditarod an added bonus.
An expected time of finishing would be 9-15 days for the mushers, but the shortest finishing time to date is 8 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes and 19 seconds set in 2014 by Dallas Seavey. Dog sled mushers, who train year-round and must compete in three smaller races, brave blizzards, whiteout conditions and turbulent winds during their race. Due to the severe weather conditions, only northern dog breeds may compete, allowing for capable dogs with ample amounts of fur to race safely. The teams must be on the lookout for moose, caribou and wolves that may pop onto the trail as well.
Year after year, the Iditarod proves to be the most popular Alaskan sporting event. Reviving the dog sledding history through the Iditarod has shown to be a celebrated event for Alaskans and visitors everywhere.
If you choose to witness the dog sledding event for yourself, you’ll catch quite a sight. The dogs bounding the rugged terrain give an excuse to view wonderful, natural landscapes, learn about Alaskan history, and of course, cheer on mushers and their dogs.