This weekend marks the start of one of my favorite annual events, as the 2014 Iditarod sled dog race gets under way in Alaska. Each year, the best mushers from across the globe gather to compete in the 1000-mile (1609 km) long test of endurance that begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome. Traditionally, the race takes approximately 9-15 days to complete, depending on the weather and trail conditions.
On Saturday, the ceremonial start will take place in downtown Anchorage, with 69 mushers setting out across the first stage, which is an 11-mile long run to Campbell Airstrip. From there, the racers will load up their sleds and teams of sled dogs, and travel overland to the town of Willow, where the race will officially restart on Sunday. After that, it is non-stop race all the way to Nome, with the exception of two mandatory 8-hour rests and a 24-hour layover. This year, the Iditarod will be taking the Northern Route, which will take the teams through the villages of Cripple, Ruby, and Galena, amongst others. That route is only taken in even numbered years in order to keep the trail in good condition and share the media attention amongst some of the more remote villages.
The field is once again filled with talented mushers this year, including past champions Mitch and Dallas Seavey, Jeff King, and Martin Buser. Fan favorites DeeDee Jonrow and Aliy Zirkle will be competing as well, although Lance Mackey is out of race as he deals with health issues. It’ll be interesting to see who jumps out in front, but judging from recent history, several of these mushers will be battling it out down the stretch. Zirkle has been in the running the past couple of years, and she may well claim the crown for the ladies once again.
Stay tuned for regular updates from the trail once the race officially gets rolling.
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