2021 Iditarod Trail Race
The 2021 Iditarod starts March 8th
You really can’t compare the Alaska Iditarod to any other competitive event in the world! A race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. The Iditarod has jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams. Add to that temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills, and you have the Iditarod. Originally, the Iditarod trail served as a supply route for materials from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the gold fields and camps in Northwest Alaska in the early 1900’s. Mushers hauled mail and supplies to towns such as Iditarod and Nome and brought out just-mined gold. In 1925, it gained international fame when a team of mushers and dogs raced against time and the elements to relay diphtheria serum to Nome. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race originated in 1973.
The official 2021 Iditarod race starts on March 8th in Willow.
Frequently teams race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, and sub-zero weather and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach -100 °F (-75 °C). The trail runs through Alaska, from the city of Anchorage in the southcental region of the state, up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated Interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The teams cross a harsh but starkly beautiful landscape under the canopy of the Northern Lights, through tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers. While the start in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban center, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages, and small Athapaskan and Inuit settlements. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state, and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
Today, the race has grown into an international contest with an average of 60 mushers from Alaska, Canada, the lower 48, Europe and Japan and South America. The youngest musher ever to race was 18 years old, the oldest was 86 years old. Sled dog racing is the only professional sport where men and women compete equally; there are no men’s and women’s divisions. In 1985 Libby Riddles was the first woman to win the Iditarod. Susan Butcher won the next 3 consecutive years and again in 1990. A popular saying during the 1980’s was “Alaska, where menare men, and women win the Iditarod”.
The ceremonial race start begins on the first Saturday in March in downtown Anchorage. The main street is blocked off and transformed into a sled dog track. Hundreds of cheering spectators line the street the morning of the race to watch the preparation and start of the Iditarod. The official start of the race is the next day in Willow, Alaska.
“Iditarod – The Last Great Race”
• Over 1,000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer
• Crosses jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast
• Temperatures that fall far below zero, winds that can cause complete lack of visibility, overflow, longs hours of darkness
• Competitors from all walks of life all vying for an Ididarod Official Finishers belt buckle and the right to say “I finished the Iditarod”.
• Thousands of volunteers from Anchorage to Nome who make it all happen
• At the turn of the 20th century The Iditarod Trail was used as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond
• Mail and supplies went in, gold came out – all via dog sled in the winter
• Gold mining began to wane, people went back to where they had come from, and the trail was used less and less
• Airplanes ( in the 1920’s) signaled the beginning of the end of dog team travel in interior Alaska
• In 1925, part of the trail became a life saving highway as diphtheria threatened Nome and life-saving serum was taken by dog teams in relays from Nenana to Nome
• The late Dorothy G Page and the late Joe Redington, Sr. organized a short distance race in 1967 to commemorate the early use of the trail and the dog teams. That race was part of Alaska’s Centennial celebration that year.
• After a second short race in 1969, the first “long distance” Iditarod (from Anchorage to Nome) ran in 1973, the first of what has been 36 sled dog races along this trail.
• Congress declared the Iditarod Trail a National Historic Trail in 1978.
Iditarod finish in Nome
Nome gained fame more than 100 years ago for the fabulous wealth found in its mountains and its beaches of gold. In 1925, Nome gained a different kind of worldwide fame. A diphtheria epidemic struck the town, and bad weather prevented the delivery of serum by air from Anchorage. The serum was forwarded by train north to Nenana and then by dogsled relay to Nome. The delivery brought everlasting fame to Balto, the lead dog of the final team. This race against time was the inspiration for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race and several movies. Nome is now the finish line for the Iditarod.
On the web at: Iditarod headquarters.