The 2013 Iditarod sled dog race gets underway today in Anchorage, Alaska, where some of the best mushers in the world have gathered to take part in the 1000-mile journey that culminates in Nome. This morning, 66 mushers will set out from the starting line in front of a throng of cheering fans as part of the ceremonial start. The race will officially get underway tomorrow when the teams will restart in Willow and the competition truly begins.
This year marks the 40th running of the Iditarod, which is billed as “The Last Great Race.” The event was originally created to commemorate the famous 1925 dog sled run to Nome that delivered serum to fight off a deadly diphtheria epidemic just in the nick of time. It was during that run that musher Gunnar Kaasen, and his famous lead dog Balto, rose to fame.
Today, the Iditarod has grown to become the most popular sporting event in Alaska, drawing relatively large crowds (by Alaskan standards) on an annual basis. The mushers and their dogs are well known throughout the state and often find themselves local celebrities. Most of the competitors live and train in Alaska, but as the event has grown in popularity, mushers now come from all over the globe.
This year’s field is another deep one with a large number of possible contenders. Past champions such as Jeff King, Lance Mackey and John Baker should all be in the running, although last year’s winner Dallas Seavey seems to be the odds on favorite to win the race once again. With his victory in the 2012 event, Seavey became the youngest winner ever and he is looking to add to an already impressive resume.
A few weeks ago there was some concern about the condition of the trail, which lacked snow along certain sections. Since then, however, snow has been plentiful and the route is in top shape for the start of the race. As always, there are some areas that will be more challenging than others, but for the most part the teams should find good snow to run on.
You can follow the Iditarod over the next few weeks at the race’s official website.
[Photo Credit: Jeff Schultz/IditarodPhotos.com]