The Iditarod sled dog race formally begins Sunday in Alaska, where competitors and their dog teams will start a 1,700 kilometer trek in pursuit of a first place prize worth more than $72,000.

Seventy-nine competitors are taking part in this year's Iditarod, including four-time winner Martin Buser. He is competing despite a recent accident that left him with a partially amputated finger.

Participants took part in a short ceremonial run Saturday, ahead of Sunday's start of timed competition from Willow, north of Anchorage, to the town of Nome. The trip is expected to take about nine days.

The Iditarod marks the 1925 trek of couriers, who raced dog teams more than 1,000 kilometers to deliver medicine to Nome, to prevent a diphtheria epidemic threatening the town.

Some information provided by AP and Reuters.