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  • How Long is the Iditarod?

    The length of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is approximately 1,049 miles. The race is held yearly across the state of Alaska.

    Overview

    The race combines humans (called mushers) with 12-16 dogs. The competing teams must cover the trail in nine to 15 days. The trail begins in Anchorage and culminates in Nome. To win, the team must have at least half a dozen dogs at the towline. The race starts on the first Saturday of the third month of the year (March).

    Origin

    The competition started in 1973 to determine the finest sled dog mushers in the country. These days it has become one of the most eagerly anticipated in the state.

    The objective is not just to win but cross the finish line in the fastest time possible. The record holder for fastest crossing of the length of the Iditarod is 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds by John Baker in 2011.

    Conditions

    Participants in the event often face blizzards and strong winds. This leads to sub-zero temperatures and whiteout conditions. In some cases the temperature goes down to -100 F (-73 C). Most of the trial consists of rugged landscapes. There are spruce trees, tundra, journeys across rivers and mountain passes.

    Route

    After the ceremonial commencement at Anchorage, the race proceeds to Willow. Wasilla was the original starting point. In 2008 it was moved to Willow because it has more snow. From Willow the race goes on to Rainy Pass. It proceeds to a sparsely populated area.

    From there the races go to the Bering Sea shore before ending up in Nome. At its starting point in Anchorage, there is a large urban area. From there however, the route goes to various isolated villages and towns. They also pass through Inupiat and Athabaskan settlements.

    Importance

    The race is viewed by the people as a remembrance of Alaska’s history. It is linked to the various dog mushing traditions in the area. Most of the participants are locals, but an increasing number of foreigners have also taken part in the event. The whole trail is a National Historic Trail. It is so popular that travel and business picks up as the event draws near.

    It should be stressed that the length of the Iditarod is still being debated. While 1,049 miles is the “official” length, other measurements state it can be 1,131 miles, 1,150 miles, 1,112 miles, 1,100 miles or 908.5 miles.

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