Some call it "The Last Great Race on Earth" -- man and animal pushed to their limits in a test of endurance, skill, knowledge and will.
It all started with a rush against time to deliver the life saving serum to the people of small town Nome, Alaska who were suffering a diptheria outbreak in 1925. The path, carved by 20 men and their over 200 sled dogs for that heroic effort, later became known for delivering supplies, medicine and mail to the Interior mining towns, as well as a way of bringing out the gold.
After the Gold Rush, population in these remote places dwindled and modern advances such as the snowmachine and airplane made the need for the sled path minimal. Over time, people forgot this unique part of Alaska's history. That is until the 1960's when a Wasilla woman named Dorothy G. Page spawned the brilliant idea of a race on the forgotten trail.
Mushers set off in their first official race in 1967, though on a significantly shorter route than it came to be a few years later. It has since turned into a National Historic Trail and a treacherous route for the highly esteemed dog mushing race known around the world.
Stretching over 1,150 miles, mushers and their K-9 companions travel through busy, populated towns such as Anchorage as well as remote villages in the vast arctic tundra. Sweeping atop frozen rivers and through dense forests, they endure long hours of Alaskan darkness and temperatures that drop well below zero. In some of the coldest tundra areas, temperatures can drop as low as 90 below zero and be accompanied by 60mph winds!
Along with providing entertainment for the young and old, the race provides an opportunity for mushers and their dogs to show off their skills doing what they love. The race also brings a boost to the economy of the trail's small villages that are otherwise self-sustaining and could easily go unnoticed.
The teams average sixteen dogs and the races average 10 to 17 days. The fastest winning time was logged by Mitch Seavey in his double record breaking victory in 2017. He simultaneously broke the record for the oldest musher, at the age of 57, as well as becoming the fastest Iditarod winner at 8 days, 3 hrs, 40 minutes and 13 seconds. The slowest winning time was just over 20 days and 15 hrs.
The longest it's ever taken the final musher to complete the race ( which awards them the famous red lantern! ) was 32 days and approximately 15 hrs.
But, hey--just to finish is a feat few can boast of!!!
The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic
Written by former 4x Iditarod winner, Susan Butcher, a wonderful children's book that teaches the power of persevearance