On Saturday, March 1, 69 sled-dog teams will begin their trek from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. One of the most storied races in history, the 41-year-old Iditarod tests both mushing skills and the strength of a dog team. Legends like Martin Buser, Jeff King, and Aliy Zirkle will guide their dogs to the starting line just like in years past, and try to beat one another over the better part of two weeks.
The Toughest Athlete
The race is inevitably filled with ups and downs as the racers fight off the cold, injuries, and the never-ending task of keeping their dogs in good health. For more about how tough Iditarod participants must be, check out our recent profile of veteran Lance Mackey.
Taking Dog Safety Seriously
Once on the trail, mushers must take two mandatory stops—one of which will last for 24 hours—to let their dogs recover. Participants also must carry notebooks filled with health records for veterinarians to review at checkpoints along the course. Mushers must have between 12 and 16 dogs, although only six need to make it to the finish line.
Last year’s race proved to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. Aliy Zirkle trailed eventual champ Mitch Seavey by only 13 minutes entering the final day. Seavey would end up tacking on 10 minutes to his lead, thanks to consistency from his lead dog, a 6-year-old husky named Tanner.
This year's race should be typically grueling. Only about 700 people have ever completed the 1000 mile race. The temperature in Anchorage on race day will be a bit above freezing, and is expected to plummet into the low teens. But conditions could be worse: Skies are expected to be clear for the race's duration, with a low chance of precipitation.
Video Profiles of the 2014 Iditarod Contenders
Alaska Dispatch introduces you to three of the sport’s top contenders in the following video profiles from their “Voices from the Last Frontier” series:
Aliy Zirkle is a two-time Iditarod runner-up and one of the best dog mushers in the world. She’s also one of the top women in her sport, but there hasn’t been a female Iditarod winner since Sudan Butcher won in 1990. This year, Aliy hopes to change that.
Iditarod champion Martin Buser is part of an elite club of just six people with four or more Iditarod victories. That club includes legendary mushers like Lance Mackey, Susan Butcher, Doug Swingley, Rick Swenson and Jeff King. Now, Buser hopes to join Swenson as the only five-time champion.
Legendary dog musher DeeDee Jonrowe has raced in 31 Iditarods – one of which took place just three weeks after she completed chemotherapy for breast cancer. One of the foremost female dog mushers in the world, she has 16 top-10 Iditarod finishes to her name.