The Iditarod Race, formally known as Trail Sled Dog Race begins on the first Saturday of March and continues for about 10 to 14 days. This year, it takes place from March 4 to 19. A kennel of 12 to 14 northern dogs led by a musher competes in the race. The event is held in sub-zero temperatures and stretches through half the portion of the American state of Alaska. The race is a cultural event in the state, with competitors from the entire world pouring in to compete and be part of the celebration. Iditarod is a highly competitive and strenuous competition, with the winner claiming a $50,000 price from the state of Alaska.
History of Iditarod Race
Alaska’s most iconic race, known locally as the Great Race, pays homage to the century-old tale of the state. Back in the early 1900s, dogs were the main means of transportation for Alaskan natives. From carrying critical goods to patrolling the wilderness via Eskimo Scouts, the sled dogs were generationally trained to wade through the snow. When a virus tore through the villages of south-central Alaska, a 10-day mission chaperoned by Leonhard Seppala delivered life-saving serum to the coastal holdout of Nome and saved countless children.
This incident, coupled to preserve the original trail of Iditarod, became the founding principles behind the first Iditarod race, held on March 3, 1973. The Iditarod Race channels the determination and grit of mushers who once delivered the lifesaving diphtheria serum across the state. The spirit of the competition is about the selfless efforts and perseverance of the Alaskan ancestors who made civilization possible. The trail of the race stretches for about 1,200 miles, covering all the towns and villages from Anchorage to Nome. The checkpoints include famous Alaskan strongholds such as Takotna, Skwentna, Finger Lake, Rohn Roadhouse, Nikolai, and Ophir. Every participant is greeted by the crowd fashioning a festive chute.
Considered to be the Mecca of sled dog racing, Alaska conducts more than a dozen races throughout the year, including the grueling thousand-mile Yukon Quest held in February. Iditarod Race has significant cultural and economic importance for Alaska. Every year, top mushers and their dogs line up to compete in the race.
Iditarod Race timeline
A serum run via sled dogs is organized from the southern port of Seward to replenish the drugs used against the diphtheria epidemic.
Wasilla-Knik Centennial Committee chairwoman Dorothy Page discovers the records of the 1925 serum distribution.
The idea of a new Centennial race is conceived by American kennel owner Joe Redington.
Joe Redington, Tom Johnson, and Gleo Huyck organize the first-ever Iditarod sled dog race.
Iditarod Race FAQs
What type of dogs participate in the Iditarod race?
The Iditarod race is exclusive to northern dog breeds like Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies.
Is the Iditarod race still going?
The Iditarod race celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022 and continues to be one of the most iconic winter events in Alaska.
When is the Great Race held?
The Iditarod race, also known as the Great Race, is held in the early weeks of March and lasts for about 10 to 14 days.
Iditarod Race Activities
Watch the livestream
The Iditarod Race is live-streamed each year on its official website. While locals can catch a glimpse of the race as it passes by their homes, international fans and enthusiasts can watch the free stream on the website.
Binge the reality show
The Iditarod Race has been chronicled by an official reality series, "Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod.” The series is streaming on Amazon Prime. Celebrate the glorious weeks of the race, as covered by the reality show, and take a deep dive into the cultural significance of the event.
Alaska, the literal heaven on earth, should be on your travel bucket list. The state welcomes tourists all year round, with a special uptick in June, July, and August. Book a week-long sojourn to the land of reindeer sausages, expansive national parks, huskies, fresh air, northern lights, and the midnight sun.
5 Glorious Facts About The Iditarod Race
The Great Race
The Iditarod covers nearly 1,200 miles and is the longest sled dog race in the world.
Dogs trump horses
Northern sled dogs are stronger and faster than horses and can pace up to 12 mph.
The United States Congress has designated the trail of the Iditarod race as National Historic Trail.
12,000 carnivorous calories
When on the trail, a sled dog eats more than 10,000 calories in a day.
The finisher’s trophy
The final finisher of the race is awarded the Red Lantern Award to honor their perseverance.
Why We Love Iditarod Race
It’s a celebration of the Alaskan spirit
Sled dogs are an integral part of the Alaskan culture. The race was started to reinvigorate the love for local huskies, who were phased out of existence after the invention of snowmobiles. The event is a cultural milestone for the people of Alaska. The entire world bears witness to the unique culture of the land through this event.
It preserves the old trail
The trail of the race is expertly designed to include all the checkpoints of the past era. It is the reconstruction of the Nome route, which travels through every major stronghold of south-central Alaska. The race introduces the new generation to stories of the past and carries the heritage forward.
It enriches the communities
The Iditarod Race is a community event, organized by volunteers from nearly every town and village. Legions of Alaskans step out of their homes to support the mushers and cheer on the dogs. In the off-season, the runners are treated with respect and admiration, and the seasoned sled dogs are fed free meals by the locals. Although it is a super competitive sport for the challengers, it brings the rest of the Alaskans together to have fun, hedge bets, and enjoy the competition.
Iditarod Race dates