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The Iditarod

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It's an 1,150 mile race over some of the craziest terrain in the world - frozen lakes and rivers, mountain ranges and huge forests. It's done in seriously cold temperatures, with heavy winds and even blizzards. It's one human and a bunch of dogs trying to cross Alaska as quickly as possible. It's the Iditarod - the "last great race on earth."

The Iditarod - History of the Race

The Iditarod was born out of an incident that took place in 1925. A bunch of kids in Nome, Alaska had diphtheria (that's a disease that gives you a fever and breathing problems and can be deadly), and the only medicine for the disease was in Anchorage. There were no planes available to take the medicine to Nome, so it was taken part way by train and then by dog sled teams. By the time the medicine arrived in Nome, 19 different dog sled teams had taken part in the very important relay race. The Iditarod trail was also used as a route to transport supplies during the winter months, but the arrival of airplanes made the trail almost unnecessary. In the late 1960s, a group of mushers decided to put the trail to good use again by staging a dog sled race. The first official Iditarod race (as it is raced today) took place in 1973.

The Iditarod - The Last Great Race

The modern-day Iditarod starts each year around the beginning of March. In 2007, the race starts on March 3rd. The top mushers (the drivers of the sleds) take between 10 and 17 days to complete the course. The teams stop at various checkpoints along the way so the musher, and the dogs, can eat and rest. The dogs have to wear special boots to protect them from the jagged ice and the hard packed snow. It's an incredibly long and challenging race, and many teams are forced to drop out before the end. The record for completeing the race is eight days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and two seconds. It was set by Martin Buser and his team of dogs in 2002, when they became the first team to complete the race in less than nine days.

The Iditarod - The Debate

Some think that dog sled racing is cruel and point out that over 125 dogs have died during the history of the Iditarod. PETA and many other animal rights organizations have campaigned to get the Iditarod cancelled because they believe the dogs are forced to work under extremely harsh conditions. What do you think of dog sled races? Is it a great race where humans and dogs work together, or just another example of how we mistreat animals? your dog sledding thoughts to Kidzworld.

The Junior Iditarod

If you'd like to try racing a team of sled dogs, there is now a Jr. Iditarod. It's open to kids ages 14 to 17. The trail is about 160 miles long and takes approximately two days to complete. For information on the race, head to the official Jr. Iditarod site .

The Iditarod - Did U Know?

  • The winner of the Iditarod wins The Golden Harness and the last place finisher receives the Red Lantern which signifies their perseverance.
  • Each racing team must have certain items if they want to race the Iditarod - an artic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog's paws.
  • The first woman to win the Iditarod was Libby Riddles who was victorious in 1985.
  • A statue of Balto, the lead dog that completed the run from Anchorage to Nome in 1925, stands in Central Park in New York City.
  • With windchill, temperatures can drop to -100 °F (-75 °C) on the Iditarod trails.
  • All mushers must race in at least three smaller races before they are allowed to enter the Iditarod.
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