The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to Alaska’s interior mining camps. When the people of Nome faced a diphtheria epidemic in 1925, the Iditarod Trail became a life-saving highway as mushers and their faithful dogs brought in medicine and supplies that the town so desperately needed. The Iditarod Dogsled Race commemorates the people and their dogs that helped to found Alaska.
The race kicks off in Anchorage, Alaska, a bustling city with a population of over 250,000 people. From there, competitors will cross 26 checkpoints on the route, the first in Anchorage and the last in Nome. In 2002, musher Martin Buser broke the record when he crossed the finish line in eight days, 22 hours and 46 minutes. The slowest finish time on record was in 1973, when musher John Schultz arrived in Nome after 32 days and 15 hours on the trail.
Throughout the past 15 years, four competitors have emerged as the ultimate Iditarod champions, winning the race a total of twelve times. Jeff King, who won in 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2006; Doug Swingley who won the race in 1995, 1999, 2000 and 2001; Martin Buser who won in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2002; and Robert Sorlie, who won two out of his three Iditarod outings in 2003 and 2005. In 2006, King won with a time of nine days, 11 hours, 11 minutes and 36 seconds.
The real heroes of the Iditarod are the dogs. Over the race they travel over 240 kilometres per day and consume a whopping 10,000 calories of high fat foods. While they work incredibly hard, the rules of the race protect them and ensure that they are treated properly at all times. These include:
- In the event that a dog becomes ill or injured and must be hauled during the race, they must be hauled in a humane fashion and must be covered if conditions require.
- Dogs must be maintained in good condition. All water and food must be ingested voluntarily.
- There will be no cruel or inhumane treatment of dogs. Cruel or inhumane treatment involves any action or inaction, which causes preventable pain or suffering to a dog.
- All injured, fatigued or sick dogs dropped from the race must be left at a designated dog drop.