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The Iditarod. Information and photos directly from 2008 Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. The Iditarod Dog Sled Race is held every year in Alaska. The ceremonial beginning is in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March. The restart (timed) is on Sunday in Wasilla (or Willow).

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the iditarod

The Iditarod

Information and photos directly from

2008 Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc.

The Iditarod Dog Sled Race is held every year in Alaska. The ceremonial beginning is in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March. The restart (timed) is on Sunday in Wasilla (or Willow).
  • The race ends when the last team arrives in Nome.
The race is over 1100 miles long and commemorates the Serum Run.
  • It also is a way to recognize that dog sledding was a way of life for the people of Alaska. Mail, supplies, passengers, and everything traveled by dog sled throughout the state.
In the early 1920's, settlers had come to Alaska following a gold strike. They traveled by boat to the coastal towns of Seward and Knik and from there, by land into the gold fields. The trail they used is today known as The Iditarod Trail, one of the National Historic Trails as so designated by the Congress of the United States. In the winter, their only means of travel was by dog team.
The Iditarod Trail soon became the major “thoroughfare” through Alaska. Mail was carried across this trail, people used the trail to get from place to place and supplies were transported via the Iditarod Trail. Priests, ministers and judges traveled between villages via dog team.
All to soon the gold mining began to slack off. People began to go back to where they had come from and suddenly there was less travel on the Iditarod Trail.
The use of the airplane in the late 1920’s signaled the beginning of the end for the dog team as a standard mode of transportation, and of course with the airplane carrying the mail, there was less need for land travel.
  • The final blow to the use of the dog team came with the appearance of snowmobiles in Alaska.
But the sled dogs had one last taste of glory in early 1925 when a diphtheria epidemic threatened isolated, icebound Nome.
  • The nearest serum was in Anchorage and the first thought was to fly it to Nome. However, the only pilot in the Territory considered capable of braving the unpredictable weather was Carl Ben Eielson, who was on a trip in the Lower 48 and was not available.
Instead, a Pony Express-type relay of dog teams was quickly organized. The serum was loaded on the newly completed Alaska Railroad and rushed to Nenana, where the first musher took it westward down the frozen Tanana River to the Yukon.
  • Every village along the route offered its best team and driver for its leg to speed the serum toward Nome.
The critical leg across the treacherous Norton Sound ice from Shaktoolik to Golovin was taken by Leonhard Seppala, the territory’s premier musher, and his lead dog Togo.
  • Gunnar Kaasen drove the final two legs into Nome behind his lead dog Balto, through a blizzard hurling 80 mph winds.
The serum arrived in time to prevent the epidemic and save hundreds of lives.
  • The 20 mushers had covered almost 700 miles in little more than 127 hours (about six days) in temperatures that rarely rose above 40° below zero and winds sometimes strong enough to blow over dogs and sleds.
The serum run received worldwide press coverage and the mushers received special gold medals.
  • A statue of Balto, the heroic lead dog, was erected a year later in New York’s Central Park (it’s still there).
  • A statue of Togo is in the Iditarod Committee Building.

What’s Iditarod Mean?

  • Iditarod means clear water and was named by the Shageluk Indians for the Iditarod River.
  • The word comes from the Ingalik Indian word HaIditarod which was the name for the river on which the town was built. It means distant place.
  • The name Iditarod came from an Ingalik and Holikachuk word hidedhod for the Iditarod River. This name means distant or distant place.

What’s It All About??

  • The first Iditarod race to Nome started March 3, 1973.
  • Carl Huntington won the 1974 race with the slowest winning time, 20 days, 15 hours, two minutes and seven seconds.
  • There are 26 checkpoints on the northern route, the first in Anchorage and the last in Nome. On the southern route, there are 27 checkpoints.
The closest finish was in 1978. Dick Mackey finished one second ahead of Rick Swenson. Mackey’s time was 14 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes and 24 seconds. The winner was decided by the nose of the lead dog across the finish line.
  • The teams average 16 dogs, which means over 1,000 dogs leave Anchorage for Nome. How many booties would be needed?
A red lantern is awarded to the last musher to finish. The longest time for a Red Lantern was 32 days, 15 hours, nine minutes and one second by John Schultz in 1973. The quickest Red Lantern musher was David Straub with a time of 14 days, 5 hours, 38 minutes and 12 seconds.
  • Rick Swenson is the only five time winner of "The Last Great Race", having won in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1991. He is now the only person to win the Iditarod in three different decades, a record that will probably never be broken.
Dallas Seavey turned 18 on March 4, 2005. He is the youngest musher to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. The oldest musher to ever compete is Col. Norman Vaughan who will turn 88 in December. Col. Vaughan has completed the race four times.
Rick Mackey won the race in 1983 to become the first son of an Iditarod champion to match his father’s accomplishment. Lance Mackey won in 2007 to become the second son of an Iditarod champion. To further set a record, father and both sons were wearing bib number 13 when they crossed the finish line in first position, and they all three won in their sixth Iditarod.
  • Add one more for Lance — He also won Iditarod 2008, and hopes to come in first in 2009.
trivia questions
Trivia Questions
  • In what year did the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race first run to Nome?
  • In what years were the other two short races run?
  • In the 1920’s what replaced the dog sled as a mode of transportation?
trivia questions1
Trivia Questions
  • How many mushers made it to Nome during the 1973 Iditarod?
  • What epidemic hit Nome in 1925?
  • What two things does the Iditarod commemorate?
trivia questions2
Trivia Questions
  • Why couldn’t planes deliver the diphtheria serum to Nome?
  • Who was the musher and lead dog who got the serum to Nome?
  • How many mushers/drivers participated in the Serum Race to Nome?
trivia questions3
Trivia Questions
  • How does a musher command the team?
  • What does it mean if you are a rookie?
  • What do the dogs do when they hear the word “gee”?
trivia questions4
Trivia Questions
  • When a musher starts the race, how many dogs can be on the team?
  • When a musher finishes the race, how many dogs must be on the gangline?
  • What are the required supplies?
trivia questions5
Trivia Questions
  • What is the meaning of the voice command, “haw”?
  • What mandatory gear must a musher pack in the sled?
  • What is the musher required to wear from Safety Checkpoint to Nome?
trivia questions6
Trivia Questions
  • About how much does a musher’s sled weigh when it is empty?
  • What does the first musher to Nome win?
  • What does the last musher to Nome win?