Each spring for the past few years I have enjoyed following the Iditarod. It is coming up next weekend so I thought I'd share a little bit about the race and how it got started.
In January of 1925 there was an epidemic of diphtheria in Nome, Alaska. They didn't have any antitoxin serum so they requested some. The nearest place to get serum was in Anchorage, one thousand miles away. It was brought by train but could only make it to Nenana because of the weather. In Nenana they put the carefully packed bottles of serum on the first of twenty sleds in a relay to Nome. Bill Shannon was the first of twenty mushers to leave on the nearly 700 mile snow-packed mail trail. This is what helped start the Iditarod.
In 1973 the first Iditarod was run in honor of The Great Serum Race and to save the dog sled culture and Alaskan huskies which were being phased out because of the introduction of snow mobiles. Thirty-five mushers started the race but only twenty-two finished. Dick Wilmarth was the first to finish, it took him twenty days.
The Iditarod starts the first Saturday in March. During the even years they take the northern route which is 975 miles and during the odd years they take the southern route which is 998 miles. They used to only take the northern trail but after several years the Iditarod Board of Directors thought it would be best to have a southern route because the smaller villages were being heavily impacted. In taking the southern route the mushers would be able to go through the ghost town of Iditarod and other smaller villages would be able to participate in the race.
It now takes the winner about nine days to complete the Iditarod. The first place winner gets a Dodge Ram, about $50,000, and a trophy. The next twenty-nine people get a percentage of the purse and everybody after that gets $1,049 and the last person to cross the finish line gets a red lantern award.
What started out as a race to bring attention to the sled teams and the Alaskan huskies is now a very popular event that a lot of people attend and even more follow on the internet or the television.
Well, I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about this fun race. If you're interested in knowing more you can visit the Iditarod website here.