Two time defending champ Lance Mackey claimed his third straight Iditarod crown yesterday, arriving in Nome less than ten days after setting out on the trail from Anchorage. He was followed in the evening hours by Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker, who finished second and third respectively.
The Iditarod is known as “The Last Great Race” and is Alaska’s premiere sporting event and has been held annually since 1973. The race commorates the rich dog sledding tradition of the the 49th state, while following a historically significant trail that was once used to run mail and supplies throughtout the region. Back in 1925, when a diptheria epidemic hit Nome, the trail was famously used to deliver medical supplies, with a chain of heroic mushers passing the serum along like a baton in a relay race. Fortunately, the serum arrived on time, and the events caught the attention of the entire nation.
The course that is used in the Iditarod race today stretches 1150 miles in length through some of Alaska’s most remote and demanding terrain. The mushers in this year’s race dealt with brutal weather conditions as well, with temperatures dropping into the -50º F with windchills, and howling breezes creating whiteout conditions on the trail. Some were forced to seek shelter wherever they could to wait out the worst of the weather.
There are still a number of mushers out on the course, and they’ll continue to cross the finish line over the next day or two. These men and women are celeberties in Alaska, and they’ll each be met with cheering crowds when the reach the finish. The last competitor to reach Nome also receives a red lantern sympolizing the old kerosene lanterns that were used to light the way for mushers in years gone by.