2021 Iditarod & the future of the race
Mar 7, 2021
With the start of the annual 49th Iditarod, I thought I would write some thoughts down, as to what the Iditarod means to me, some challenges, & the future of The Last Great Race.
Ever since I was a kid, the Iditarod was a constant in my life. From spending multiple years in Nome, Alaska, where the race ends, to the beginning of where it all starts, in Anchorage, (Willow) Alaska!
Whenever I would see a musher, I would always try & learn something from them. They were heroes to me. I have a collection of booties, from various musher’s dogs. They’re in an airtight bag, so their individual aromas are still intact.
With Nome sometimes getting down to -10 °F at the finish line. Standing out there for hours, celebrating each team’s journey, it’s truly magical. The sound of “We made it”, was consequently wholesome. Ugh, it takes me back. (See: missing Alaska)
My sister got one musher disqualified at the finish line, due to improper care of their dogs. She was ~7 at the time. Lol.
It’s crazy how something some may consider so small, can mean so much to us.
~Fun fact: My first ever Gamertag was AlaskanMusher11 :)
What started as a celebration of Alaska’s history, The Iditarod is now an international race. Mushers from across the globe travel to participate annually.
Mushing was a way of transporting materials, food, & medicine, across Alaska. It was also a way for scouts to explore/spy. Dogs are one of the biggest unrealized heroes in our history. We owe them more recognition.
Each team starts with 14 dogs. There’s usually 30-50 teams, but sometimes up to 100! That’s 420-1,400 dogs! Just think about that for a second; The amount of food, bathroom breaks, & the uproar of dogs yelling! Your heart has to be racing!
The trail is usually 850-1,000 miles, this year it’s only 426 miles, but it must be traveled twice. See the map above for a more detailed look.
With COVID-19, this year’s trail has been changed 30+ times. The trail has been taken out of the villages, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This isn’t a normal year, by any standards.
We’re still not even sure what the effects of the pandemic have on other species. It’s vital that these teams & event volunteers responsibly approach the trail.
Zirkle’s last run
This is going to be Aliy Zirkle’s last run. She’s always been one of my favorite mushers. It’s sad to see her retire, but she’s had a great career & helped educate many others on what the Iditarod is, what it means, & why she runs it. She’s one of the most vocal mushers, with a great following (for good reason), allowing her to better communicate with the fans.
Unfortunately, it’s not all great. Some people try to drug their dogs, to push them farther than what’s appropriate. While I don’t believe there’s a place for doping in sports, It destroys my heart when you start doping the rest of your team/species, unwillingly.
Let’s paint another picture: It’s just you & your dogs, out in the wilderness. The dogs barking in excitement, you’re making sure everyone is doing their job, nothing beats this moment of bliss. You’re a team. You’re companions. At that moment, you’re enveloped in nature, unlike anything most people could dream of. It’s like time traveling. You get transported to another dimension. I believe no bond in the world can beat that of an animal. They don’t live as long as we’d like, but those years are full of true, unwavering support of one another.
Mushers spend year-round training for The Last Great Race. They aren’t the only athletes here, as the dogs make up 93.3% of the team. The kennels are filled with even more dogs, that don’t get picked for the team, for various reasons, but they’re not to be forgotten. The amount of dedication these teams put into becoming the best at their art is crazy. This should be an Olympic event. Horses shouldn’t be the only other species allowed in the Olympics.
I can’t even formulate how important the Iditarod is to me. It’s something that makes you an Alaskan. It’s a part of you. Always & forever.
If you’d like to comment on this or anything else, give me a shout @SENTINELITE!