Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek via Wikimedia
Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek via Wikimedia

The 2014 Iditarod starts this Sunday. With that in my, I decided to re-post a blog that I did around this time last year plus add a few fascinating facts about this famous race. It truly is an amazing story of endurance and sacrifice!

Every year in Alaska, a 1000-mile dogsled race, run for prize money and prestige, commemorates an original “race” run to save lives. The race begins in Anchorage, Alaska and finished in Nome.

Back in January of 1926, six-year-old Richard Stanley showed symptoms of diphtheria, signaling the possibility of an outbreak in the small town of Nome. When the boy passed away a day later, Dr. Curtis Welch began immunizing children and adults with an experimental but effective anti-diphtheria serum. But it wasn’t long before Dr. Welch’s supply ran out, and the nearest serum was in Nenana, Alaska–1000 miles of frozen wilderness away.

Amazingly, a group of trappers and prospectors volunteered to cover the distance with their dog teams! Operating in relays from trading post to trapping station and beyond, one sled started out from Nome while another, carrying the serum, started from Nenana. Oblivious to frostbite, fatigue, and exhaustion, the teamsters mushed relentlessly until, after 144 hours in minus 50-degree winds, the serum was delivered to Nome. As a result, only one other life was lost to the potential epidemic. Their sacrifice had given an entire town the gift of life.

Here are some other interesting facts about the Iditarod:

The Centennial Race, (later known as the Iditarod) which was the brainchild of Dorothy G. Page, who wanted to sponsor a sled dog race to honor mushers. With the support of Joe Redington Sr. (named the “Father of the Iditarod” by one of the local newspapers), the first race was held in 1967.

The largest number of mushers to finish a single race was 77 in 2004!

There is an average of 16 dogs used in each race which means over 1,000 dogs leave Anchorage for Nome.

Dallas Seavey turned 18 on March 4, 2005. He is the youngest musher to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. The oldest musher to ever compete was Col. Norman Vaughan who completed the race four times.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is known as the ‘Last Great Race on Earth.’

Mushers usually receive between 2-4 hours of sleep a night during the race. Mandatory rests: one 24-hour layover to be taken at any checkpoint, one eight-hour layover taken at any checkpoint on the Yukon River; and an eight-hour stop at White Mountain.

It costs on an average of $16,500 to compete in the race.

There will be 17 awards presented during this year’s 2014 Iditarod.

Sources of some facts: