As expected, the first musher has reached Nome, Alaska today as part of the 2020 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Norwegian Thomas Waerner complete the course early this morning, arriving at the finish line 12:37 AM local time to claim his first victory in this iconic endurance challenge. His total race time was 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes, and 47 seconds, which isn’t a new record, but still pretty quick considering the deep snow encountered on the route this year.
As of this writing, Waerner remains the only musher to reach Nome thus far, although three-time champion Mitch Seavey is closing in on that point as well. He’s currently running in second place, and the only other racer who has passed through the checkpoint in Safety, the second to last before the finish. Jessie Royer, Brent Sass, and Aaron Burmeister round out the top five, all of which are in and out of White Mountain and should finish up later today.
One of the more remarkable things about this year’s Iditarod is just how close the teams have been throughout the entire race. At any given time, the top 15 or 20 racers were all through the same checkpoints, and not quite as spread out as they often have been in the past. In particular, the top ten mushers were constantly jockeying for position, although for the second half of the event, they were all chasing Waerner, who ran a great race from the front. That isn’t always easy to do, particularly with seasoned veterans like Seavey in pursuit.
It now appears that the bulk of the remaining mushers will reach the finish line throughout today and tomorrow, with the rest straggling in over the next few days. That will drop the curtain on this year’s Iditarod, which now faces some big challenges before next year’s race. With sponsors dropping out and increased pressure from animals rights activists, the 2021 Iditarod could look very different.
Congrats to Thomas Waerner on a great race.