News / USA

Alaska's Iditarod Sled-Dog Race Starts with Ceremonial Jaunt

The lead dogs of musher Brent Sass race down 4th Avenue at the ceremonial start to the Iditarod dog sled race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, Mar. 2, 2013.
The lead dogs of musher Brent Sass race down 4th Avenue at the ceremonial start to the Iditarod dog sled race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, Mar. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Dozens of mushers and their sled-dog teams on Saturday will mark a ceremonial start to Alaska's famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race that will take contestants through nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of wilderness during the next week.
    
The 11-mile (18-km) jaunt through the state's largest city of Anchorage sets the stage for the Sunday start of a race that commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that carried diphtheria serum to Nome by sled-dog relay. Some 69 mushers, some from as far away as Jamaica and New Zealand, are expected to take part.
    
"Saturday is an opportunity to interact with mushers, watch dog teams excited to leave the starting line, travel 11 miles of the city streets and call it a day," said race Executive Director Stan Hooley. "There is much more of an opportunity to touch and feel the race, and celebrate this great race."
    
Timed racing will start on Sunday when the mushers reach Willow, a small community about 80 miles (130 km) north of Anchorage. The competition will eventually see them glide into Nome, a city on the coast of the Bering Sea.
    
They will hit 21 checkpoints with distances between stops ranging from 18 to 85 miles before reaching the finish line in Nome. Race officials peg the distance at 975 miles, not accounting for any topographical changes.
    
Most races last slightly longer than nine days, and the winner will receive $50,400 and a new truck. Other top finishers will also be awarded cash prizes from the race purse, which totals over $650,000. Each musher is required to take a 24-hour rest and two separate eight-hour stops. None can be combined.
    
"Anyone who has attended both the ceremonial start in Anchorage and the re-start in Willow, one of the first things they notice is the mindset of the dogs," Hooley said. "They sense the difference between the purpose of those two days. That's a fascinating thing to see."
    
Unpredictability of race
    
Of the 69 mushers, nearly one-fourth are rookies. While most live in Alaska, some not far from Sunday's starting line, the lineup comes replete with international flavor including mushers from Norway, Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Sweden.
    
Even as Saturday's start remains ceremonial, it creates anticipation of what new feats could be accomplished this year. Each race seems to produce signature performances.
    
Three years ago, John Baker became the first Eskimo to post a win, clocking in a record eight days, 18 hours, 46 minutes. A year later, 26-year-old Dallas Seavey became the youngest musher to win. Last year, his father Mitch become the oldest.
    
In nearly 20 years as executive director, Hooley said Baker's victory remains vivid.
    
"It put an exclamation point on how special this race is to Alaska and how it galvanizes seemingly everyone in the entire state," Hooley said. "For him to be the first Native Alaskan to win in many years brought forth a whole new level of emotion, excitement and statewide pride I hadn't felt before."
    
The only thing predictable about the race is its unpredictability.
    
"The unique thing about the Iditarod is there is no norm," said Dallas Seavey, after completing construction of his new sled, made in part with aluminum shaft hockey sticks. "It's not like NASCAR racing cars going around a track. You and your dogs are overcoming tremendous variables and adversity. That's what this race is about."

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid