The Iditarod: “The Last Great Race on Earth”
“The Last Great Race on Earth” is what the Iditarod Race has been dubbed. The name is appropriate for this incredible quest of over 1000 miles of Alaskan trails that include frozen rivers, mountain ridges, tundra, and dense forests. To this, one must add the conditions that one might encounter in the sometimes desolate Alaskan landscape.
The Iditarod Race is an event that has attracted the attention of people for years. The dog teams consist of 16 dogs, almost all Alaskan Huskies. The race starts from the city of Anchorage, in south central Alaska, and ends in Nome on the western Bearing Sea coast. During the event, the otherwise quiet Alaska becomes alive with contestants, dog teams, and excited tourists. The contestants, called Mushers, from many places gather and bring their trained dogs and all the required equipment to participate. The Mushers include doctors, fishermen, lawyers, artists, natives, foreigners, and people from every walk of life.
A brief history
This race is a tribute to Alaska’s history and to the sled dog teams. The trail, which is a Historic Trail, was the supplier of goods and mail for outlying areas of Alaska. It also saved Nome from an epidemic by becoming the trail for the transportation of medication. All the sled trips were made using sled dogs.
The co-founder of the race, Joe Redington, has said that there are two purposes for this race. One is the preservation of Alaskan Husky and dog culture and the other is to preserve the history of the trail and keep it alive in the hearts of Alaskans.
Heroes of the race
There are names that are immediately associated with the race. We will just mention a few. Rick Swenson is remembered as he is the only musher to have won the race five times. Of the 20 races in which he and his dog team participated, he was always in the top 10 winners. Norman Vaughn who led a search and rescue unit during WWII and made many trips across the frozen north during his lifetime, finished his fourth race at the age of 88.
The list of heroes and milestones is unending for this truly incredible race along the most beautiful Alaskan landscapes.