Several dog teams set out in relay to deliver the needed medicine traveling hundreds of miles in horrible weather. Interestingly, several people were in the “Send an airplane!” camp, but winter air travel had not yet been deemed safe in Alaska. It was also a struggle to find a qualified pilot and an airplane capable of tackling the journey. In the end, hero dog, Balto, and his team reached Nome on February 2, 1925 and a second delivery followed by dogsled on February 15.
Mushing is the official sport of Alaska and the Iditarod is the Olympics of mushing. On Saturday, all the teams start the race downtown Anchorage in what is called the “ceremonial start.” Basically, they pretend they’re racing for a couple of miles through town, everyone cheers, and then they pack up their dogs and drive two hours north to Willow where the real race begins on Sunday morning. This year, our complete lack of snow required snow to be hauled in by train from Fairbanks for the ceremonial start. We take the Iditarod very seriously!
Let’s look at Iditarod 44 by the numbers:
- 85 Mushers
- 975 Miles
- $3,000 – entry fee
- #2 starts the race (Bib #1 goes to an honorary musher in a sled driven by the reigning Junior Iditarod champion for the ceremonial start) – this year, bib #2 is the “Mushing Mortician,” Scott Janssen.
- $888,019 – Total Lifetime Iditarod Earnings of Jeff King, largest earner in this year’s race.
- $750,000 – Purse to be shared among the top 30 finishers.
- $1,049 – amount each finisher placing 31 or higher earns for finishing the race (symbolic of the 1049 miles from Anchorage to Nome).
- 5 – Most races won by one person (Rick Swenson 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1991)
- 4 – Most consecutive races won by one person (Lance Mackey 2007-2010)
- 25 – Age of the youngest ever champion of the Iditarod (Dallas Seavey, 2012)
- 8d 13h 4m 19s – Fastest ever race time (Dallas Seavey, 2014)
- 32d 05h 19m 01s – Longest time taken to complete the race (John Schultz, 1973 – coming in last earns you the “Red Lantern Award” for not giving up)
And, they’re off! On their way to Nome! Track the current standings.