Iditarod, What it takes


One of the many things Alaska is known for is the Iditarod race, I want to share a bit of different view of the race, but first a bit of history. Dog mushers and dog teams have been part of Alaska’s history since it became a US territory. Early on patrolling and keeping the vast wilderness known as Alaska safe during WWII, this changed with the introduction of the “Iron Dog” snowmobile, which lead to the loss of the dog teams and mushing in general. In 1950’s at the centennial anniversary of Alaska being a US territory, the concept of a dog race sprung to life, hoping to keep the history of the gold rush and mail routes alive. In 1967 the first race occured being a two heat 56 mile race around Big Lake, interest was lost again after 1969. Until 1973 when a long distance race was envisioned one from Seward to Nome, all to safe dog sled history and Alaskan Husky’s the race taking almost three weeks to complete.

Nearly 100 years ago, the famous mission to deliver lifesaving serum from Nenana to Nome led by Leonhard Seppala, saved an entire community. Since March 2020, communities throughout Alaska have been faced with the COVID 19 Coronavirus pandemic. Today, Iditarod (the race) and the 1925  Serum Run have many things in common. Now, more than ever, it’s important to channel the grit and determination that allowed teams of mushers to complete this herculean effort and deliver diphtheria serum that saved countless children’s’ lives. That spirit lives on in Alaska today, and should be celebrated! 

The race is really a reconstruction of the freight route to Nome and commemorates the part that sled dogs played in the settlement of Alaska. The mushers travel from checkpoint to checkpoint much as the early freight mushers did. Although some modern dog drivers move at a pace that would have been incomprehensible to their old-time counterparts, making the trip to Nome in under ten days.

But to get to the race a musher and his team has, many hurdles to overcome and qualifications to make. Not unlike any other monumental event you may want to undertake be it run in the Boston Marathon or Climb Mt Everest, you have to show your worth and in the case of the Iditarod your dog’s worth. Mushers and teams start years in advance and have to put in their application a year in advance to even bid for the race.

Mushers must:

The Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race shall be a race for dog mushers meeting the entry qualifications as set forth by the Board of Directors of the Iditarod Trail Committee.

Recognizing the aptitude and experience necessary and the varying degrees of monetary support and residence locations of mushers, with due regard to the safety of mushers, the humane care and treatment of dogs and the orderly conduct of the race, the Iditarod Trail Committee shall encourage and maintain the philosophy that the race be constructed to permit as many qualified mushers as possible who wish to enter and contest the race to do so.

The object of the race is to determine which musher and dogs can cover the race in the shortest time under their own power and without aid of others. That is determined by the nose of the first dog to cross the finish line. To that end, the Iditarod Trail Committee has established these rules and policies to govern the race.

A musher is qualified to submit an entry to the Iditarod if:
• Any Iditarod or Yukon Quest Veteran with three or more consecutive scratches or withdrawals must re-qualify to the same standards as a rookie before entry will be accepted. This shall include completion of required finish standards in approved qualifier races within the past three years and a new musher reference. The musher may only use one Iditarod or Yukon Quest attempt counting as a qualifier race”
• he/she is 18 years of age as of the starting date of the Race;
• he/she has completed a prior Iditarod Race; or
• he/she has completed the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race prior to signing up for the Iditarod Race,or;
• he/she must complete two (2) 300-mile qualifiers and another approved qualifier for a total of 750 miles to be qualified. The completion requirements are that a musher must finish either within the top 75% of the field or in an elapsed time of no more than twice the time of the winner;and
• he/she during such approved qualifying races demonstrated the necessary physical and mental aptitude and preparedness, as well as the necessary wilderness and mushing skills.
• If a rookie musher completed the Iditarod as far as the Yukon River within the top 75% of the field or in an elapsed time of no more than twice the elapsed time of the lead musher at the time, he/she will be considered to have completed a 300 mile qualifier.
• Mushers must exemplify the spirit and principles of the Iditarod Trail Committee asset forth in the rules, policies, bylaws and mission statement.
Proof of Qualification:
• Except for a prior Iditarod, it is the musher’s responsibility to provide written proof of completion of qualifiers to the Iditarod prior to submitting an entry.
• Rookie mushers are also required to furnish a reference, on the form furnished by the ITC, at the time of submitting an entry. The reference must be from an Iditarod musher who is familiar with the rookie, must certify that the rookie has been informed about and
understands the physical and mental aspects of the Iditarod, as well as the wilderness and mushing skills necessary for contesting the race. The reference must be available for candid consultation by race officials and the qualifying board.

This is a partial list, (only the first page of an 18 page list of requirements and expectations, as you can see the Iditarod is for dedicated mushers and athletes, it is no wonder that it draws teams and persons from all over the world to participate and watch the race. The teams train year round and put countless hours and dedication into the race.

Our Alaskan dream is blessed to count a musher as friend and can say he has the dedication to be able to run in this race. He was a judge at a recent qualifying race and shared this video

It has been fun getting to know him, see his dedication and watch him follow his dream of racing, as well as his love for his team. One of the perks in staying with us, is we can arrange for you to meet up with Matt and his team and you can go home saying that you met a real mushing team and perhaps even go mushing.

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