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  • Writer's pictureLynn Lovegreen

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race

This weekend is the start of the Last Great Race on Earth, the Iditarod.This year, the sled dog race is altered because of the COVID-19 virus. The race has a different route to protect residents in the villages where the traditional checkpoints take place, and testing and other measures are in place. We wish everyone involved has a good run this year! In the meantime, here’s some information about the history of the race.

As you may know, the Iditarod got its start from an episode of Alaska history. In 1925, a diptheria epidemic swept across the territory of Alaska. Dr. Curtis Welch diagnosed the outbreak in Nome and asked for serum from the Alaska Railroad Hospital in Anchorage. The fastest way to get the vital package to Nome was by train to Nenana, then by dog sled to Nome. It took 20 mushers to relay it 674 miles in 127 1/2 hours; all the mushers defied harsh conditions to save the diptheria victims. The largest segment was run by Leonard Seppala and his lead dogs Balto and Togo.

Later, Dorothy G. Page, Joe Redington Sr., and others wanted a long-distance sled dog race to encourage the tradition of dog mushing, and this historic feat became the inspiration for the Iditarod. Since 1973, the Last Great Race has been a part of Alaskan life. Hundreds of people volunteer or donate support. Thousands of people watch the start, end, or catch a glimpse as the teams go by. Rural Alaskans host the race while it runs through their towns. We all follow it online or through the news. Classrooms get involved. Dog mushers are celebrities. The Iditarod is a big deal in Alaska. May it continue to bring together our past and present.

To learn more, check out the Iditarod site at The education portal is

For a fun read on the Iditarod experience, try Gary Paulsen’s Winterdance. You can also see Gary Paulsen’s page at


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