The Iditarod A.K.A 'The Last Great Race On Earth' Has Begun!

By Meera Dolasia on March 7, 2012

Word Search

On Sunday, March 4th, thousands of fans gathered at Willow Lake, Anchorage, to give a rousing send-off to the 66 mushers and their crew of between 12-16 dogs competing in this year's world-renowned trail sled dog race - The Iditarod.

Among them, were six former champions including last year's winner John Baker, the first Inupiat Eskimo to ever win the race and, Lance Mackey, who dominated the race for four straight years until John toppled him off his perch. The cancer survivor who finished a disappointing 17th last year is determined, to regain his title.

Also competing, are 36-year-old Ray Redington Jr. and his younger brother, 29-year-old Ryan Redington Jr., grandsons of Joe Redington, the co-founder of this grueling race, which began as a tribute to commemorate twenty hardy souls and their dog teams, who braved 40° below temperatures to rush a diphtheria serum from Anchorage to the isolated town of Nome and saved it from an epidemic

Now in its 40th year, the competition often referred to as 'Last great race on Earth',  involves sledding 976 miles across the Alaskan wilderness, through jagged mountains and frozen rivers in below freezing temperatures and against blinding winds. While every year is challenging, this year is expected to be even more so, thanks to the record snowfall the area has received. In fact, conditions are so bad that the organizers made some unprecedented last minute changes to the route to ensure that the mushers and their dogs are not in any unnecessary danger.

The journey, which lasts anywhere from 11-16 days, depending on the pace, entails the competitors checking in at 25 pre-designated areas, normally small towns along the way. While the race always takes place on the historic Iditarod trail that runs from Anchorage to Nome, the actual route alternates between even and odd years.

This year, the competitors will be traveling the Northern route, which passes through a myriad of frozen Alaskan landscapes - ranging from the rather dreary tundra to the steep Alaskan Range and the shifting sea ice of Norton Sound.

While the humans get all the glory and a chance to share the $550,000 USD cash prize (divided amongst the first thirty winners), the brave dogs that cover as much as 100 miles a day on all kinds of harsh terrain, are the true heroes. As with all sports teams, they too have a leader or captain to guide them to victory. Also important are wheel dogs, the workhorses that help pull the sled out of the snow. Other positions include 'point' and 'swing' dogs.

Also, as you have probably guessed only select dogs can endure a competition this hard. While there are several sled dog breeds that can be used, the most popular are purebreds like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, both known for their endurance, speed and dependability.

Though the spirit of the Iditarod remains the same, a lot has changed since the first race was held 40 years ago. For one, the leading contenders are all professionals who are financed by corporate sponsors and spend all year training for the race. The competitors are also equipped with cell phones and high-tech outdoor equipment, which includes custom built sleds and Global Positioning Devices (GPS), that help in tracking their progress. And of course, they now also write blogs and stream live, as they race across the treacherous route! To follow this exciting race minute-by-minute go to:


VocabularyPlay Game



Anchorage, AK, USANome, AK, USA
to use your custom avatar.
  • 4Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm
    go you racers in the iditarod!
    • AnnaleeSunday, March 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm
      they are sooooooooooooo cute and fast and realy tough
      • ?Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm
        great job
        • gorgeous30Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm
          the dogs are soooooooooooooooooooooo cute! I think I know what I'm gonna do when I grow up!
          • jonathonawesome12
            jonathonawesome12Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm
            • audrey4312
              audrey4312Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 11:29 am
              this is so cool
              • audrey4312
                audrey4312Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 11:29 am
                • lalala
                  lalalaSunday, March 11, 2012 at 7:37 am
                  the dogs wear shoes!
                  • Dog loverSunday, March 11, 2012 at 6:56 am
                    I loved the video. I wish I could go to one,by the way those dogs tongues are relly long.
                    • cheyenneSaturday, March 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm
                      I love huskeys very much i wish i have one because they are really cute and i loved the video that you have love alot of animals but the most animals that i love is the huskys !!!!!!1

                      Recent Comments

                      Listening bug wrote:

                      I love school! Especially this s...
                      The Goldfish Invasion That Is Th...

                      Violeta./ wrote:

                      Coolest dog eva
                      Video Of The Week — Talented Bea...

                      Cici wrote:

                      Very brought to attention.
                      The Goldfish Invasion That Is Th...

                      jack wrote:

                      this vid is so cool and hilariou...
                      Video Of the Week - A Dog That L...

                      Our Apps and Plugins