The Iditarod officially began this Sunday, the dog sled race that spans over 900 miles between the largest city in Alaska, Anchorage, to the old gold-mining town of Nome. The perilous trip along the frozen woods and mountains of the Alaskan Iditarod Trail is run by a 16-dog team and single-human musher.
The race has been going on for over 46 years. Initially, the competition was created to honor the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskie breed, both of which were at risk of being modernized out of existence by snowmobiles after the second World War. The trail itself commemorates a heroic feat completed by a relay of dog sled teams and trappers in 1925, who braved unforgiving, winter conditions to deliver medicine to children in Nome suffering from diphtheria.
As the race has gone on, people and dogs have gotten better at adapting and moving through the conditions, steering away from some more unorthodox choices such as using poodles
instead of huskies to run the race. In 1973, the first year the race was held it took the winning team over 20 days to complete the journey. By 2017 the all-time record for the trail was hit in 8 days and roughly 3.5 hours.
While the Alaskan competition has mostly been won by Americans, Joar Leifseth Ulsom
was the second Norwegian
to win last year, completing the journey in 8 days and 12 hours. The first non-American to win the race was a Swiss man, Martin Buser. Dog sled racing is a popular sport in the United States, Canada
, Greenland, Russia, and some European countries, due to the cold, snowy climate.