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From Anchorage to Nome each team of dogs and their musher cover 1,049 miles over an 8 to 15 day period.
The race starts on the first Saturday in March on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. A five-block section of the street is barricaded off as a staging area and snow is stockpiled and shipped in by truck the night before to ensure cover of the route to the first checkpoint.
The race pits man and animal against nature through miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. Jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast. Add to that, temperatures way below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and you have a race only possible in Alaska.
Every musher has a different tactic. Each one has a special menu for feeding and snacking the dogs. Each one has a different strategy — some run in the daylight, some run at night. Each one has a different training schedule and his own ideas on dog care, dog stamina and his own personal ability.
The rules of the race lay out certain regulations which each musher must abide by. There are certain pieces of equipment each team must have: an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an axe, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog’s feet to protect against cutting ice and hard packed snow injuries.
Each musher, whether in the top ten, or winner of the Red Lantern (last place) has accomplished a feat few dare to attempt. Each has gone the distance and established a place for their team in the annals of Iditarod lore.