Officially it’s known as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but it’s often referred to the Last Great Race on Earth. It’s a competition that pits one dog driver, a musher, and a team of dogs against each other along with the forces of Mother Nature.
Named for a small town in Alaska, official start of the race occurs farther north than Anchorage. Over the next 9-19 days, competitors cover about 1,131 miles in a race that will finish in Nome Alaska.
The Iditarod has been held every years since 1972 with Marin Busser completing the race in 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds in 2002.
The terrain can and will be brutal even for the most experience musher and the weather is always unpredictable. Temperatures can range fro 50 above zero to 60 below zero with blinding snow and whipping winds.
There are actually two different Iditarod courses. In even years, the race follows a northern route, while in odd years, it covers a southern route.
It is said that the northern trail is the easier of the two routes, but both are precarious and include uninhabited wilderness, hilly terrain, swamps, frozen rivers, thick forests and barren land exposed to the elements, like lashing rain or chilling winds.
There are 26 checkpoints (where the mushers stop) along the northern route, and 27 along the southern route. The checkpoints are in tiny towns and villages, with populations ranging from zero to 30,000. For those places with no or few residents, a tent or cabin serves as the checkpoint.