Monday, March 7, 2011

Iditarod 2011- "The Last Great Race on Earth!"

This weekend I had the honor of attending the beginning of the historic Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Anchorage and Willow, Alaska. This intense and rugged race has been coined “Last Great Race on Earth," and for good reason. The Iditarod Trail blazes over 1050 miles from Anchorage, through Alaska's arctic Interior, to Nome on the western Bering Sea Coast. This race is an incredible piece of Alaskan heritage, and the determination of the mushers and their teams is purely awe-inspiring. Join me for a fun recap of the race and my day out on Willow Lake...

Looking down on the trail at Willow Lake
A bit of history-
The Iditarod began in 1973 but it was inspired by a heroic event in 1925. In January 1925, a diphtheria epidemic threatened to wipe out the remote community of Nome, AK. The life saving serum was almost a 1000 miles away in Anchorage. 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs rallied together and relayed the serum 674 miles in a record breaking 5 days in -23 degree blizzard conditions. Simply incredible! Their efforts helped save the community and others like it. The event garnered worldwide attention and was coined as the "Great Race of Mercy." Balto, the lead sled dog to reach Nome became immensly popular and they raised a statue of him in New York City's Central Park. The race today is an homage to the heroic trail and a way to preserve the iconic Alaskan sled dog traditions in our modern day.

Me at the Start Line!

Jamaican Dog Sled Team, mushed by Newton Marshall.
How cool is it that Jamaica has a dog sled team? Gotta love this guy, he would dance on the back of his sled for the crowd! Here's a clip of him at the ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday...

Lance Mackey, reigning 4 time consecutive Iditarod winner!
Now, this is the man to beat! Lance Mackey has won the last 4 Iditarod's! He is the son of Dick Mackey, winner in 1978, and brother to Rick Mackey, winner in 1983. That's one heck of a bloodline!

Lance Mackey, prepping his dogs on the Start Line
Dallas Seavey, third generation musher. His Dad, Mitch is also mushing in this Iditarod!
Fur Rondy- an Alaskan Tradition
A couple weeks leading up to the Iditarod, there is the winter festival, Fur Rondy. It is alot of fun and features all kinds of activities in downtown Anchorage like Yukigassen- a Japanese mass snowball fighting competition, a Frostbite Footrace, Snowshoe Softball, and my favorite... the Running of the Reindeer. This is similar to the running of the bulls, but Alaskan style! Words cannot describe, so here's a video from my iPhone...

Needless to say, this weekend and the events leading up to it have been quite exciting and entertaining! I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into the Last Great Race and the traditions surrounding it!

Official Iditarod logo credit, historic info here


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