Every year in March there is a special event that stretches across Alaska that people have heard about around the world, yet many don’t know a whole lot about. The event is called The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, also known as the “Last Great Race on Earth” and it’s a 1,000 mile long dog sledding competition that begins on the first Saturday of March and ends when the last team crosses the finish line in Nome, Alaska. Here are a few things you need to know about the Iditarod.
The Dogs Are Well Taken Care Of
Most of the over 1,000 sled dogs are Alaskan Huskies, and in order to compete, Veterinarians need to make sure they fit the standards of good health. Vets are stationed at checkpoints throughout the race in case they are needed, and along the way mushers can leave dogs with them for any number of reasons including injury, poor performance or going into heat.
The Race Doesn’t Start In Anchorage
Most people think that the Iditarod starts in Anchorage, but that isn’t the case. Anchorage is actually a ceremonial start. The real race begins in Willow, Alaska, which is an hour and a half drive north.
It’s Not As Old As You Think
The Iditarod may share some of the same trail as the Serum Run of 1925, as well as the mushers (the men or women that leads the dog team sled), dogs and checkpoints, but that’s as far as it goes. The race was started in 1973 by Joe Redington, Sr., who wanted to bring sled dogs back to the Alaskan lifestyle. He was also determined to get the Iditarod Trail declared as a National Historic Trail. He obviously succeeded, considering the 2023 version of the race will mark its 50th anniversary.
The Race Lasts For Days
The first Iditarod took over 20 days for the winner to cross the finish line. In 2017 however the current record was set at 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds.
The Winner Doesn’t End The Race
Most races end when the first few people cross the finish line, but it’s not the case for the Iditarod. The last place musher is given the traditional red lantern, which is called the Widow’s Lamp. Back when sled dogs were used to deliver mail, roadhouses lit lamps to welcome them, and didn’t extinguish them until all mushers have reached their destination. As a sign of respecting that tradition, the Widow’s Lamp is lit in Nome at the start of the race, and given to the last place finisher. It doesn’t matter if a team finishes first, or last, in the middle of the day or night, crowds are always gathered to fire sirens and greet all the mushers.
You can be a part of the 50th anniversary of the Iditarod race by securing your spot on The Iditarod and Alaska’s Northern Lights vacation package. Contact us today to find out more.