Iditarod 2020: Mushers Take 24-Hour Rest as Race Nears Halfway Point

The strategy of the top mushers in the 2020 Iditarod is starting to emerge. Yesterday, many of the contenders in this year’s race took their mandatory 24-hour rest, even as the teams began approaching the halfway point of the event. That means that they have returned to the trail today, rested and ready to continue the dash to Nome, which still sits about 500 miles in the distance.

The checkpoint in Takotna, which sits at the 329 mile (529 km) mark, was an especially popular one on Thursday. That’s where a slew of mushers chose to take their 24-hour break, with the top 17 racers on the leaderboard stopping there. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of action to report throughout the day, with most of the contenders off the course. Now, as they resume the race today, we’re starting to see this year’s contenders start to emerge.

As of this writing, the lead teams are in and out of the Cripple checkpoint, which falls at the 475 mile (764 km) mark. From there, the finish line in Nome is exactly 500 miles (804 km) away, which means the leaders will pass the halfway point throughout the day today. Right now, that list includes Jessie Royer in the top position, with Aaron burmeister and Thomas Waerner holding down the second and third spots respectively. Richie Diehl and Joar Lefseth Ulsom round out the top five.

With their 24-hour layover complete, the mushers are now free to push forward at their own pace. Deep snow has made things difficult throughout the race so far however and that isn’t expected to change. They’ll also have to factor in another 8-hour rest along the way as well, although that won’t likely come for another few days. In the past, when and where that rest was taken has played a role in the outcome of the race and it could be of strategic importance again this year.

Heading into the weekend, it is still a wide-open race. The deep snow this year probably means we won’t see any speed records, but I’d guess we’ll see the first teams arriving in Nome sometime around Wednesday of next week. It should certainly be an exciting race to follow over the next few days.

Kraig Becker