Q. From Hunter, comes this question: Can you tell me all about the Nome sled race? Lanette wants to know: What is the general
relationship between the mushers and the general public? And from Stephanie: How many races have there been, and how many mushers ran the 2006 race?
A. In no particular order, I’ll try to answer these questions and others you may have.
The relationship between the mushers and the general public is very good, I believe. For instance, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t admire a musher. Those are tough, savvy, men and women who run this race. Sissies need not apply! It takes years of arduous training to be able to complete an Iditarod. The mushers even train in the summer, using wheeled sleds to run their dogs.
Contrary to what you might hear from professed animal advocates, mushers truly love and care about their dogs. The vast majority of them provide clean quarters, top of the line food, and lots of attention to their teams. As in any sport, or in ‘life’ in general, there is always the isolated case of a bad apple in the barrel, but most all mushers are caring people. We look up to them.
As to reports from advocates claiming the poor dogs are mistreated and ‘made’ to run, that is poppycock! You have only to attend one race to see the silliness of this claim. The dogs love to run. They are so excited. The musher’s actually have to hire ‘handlers’ to hold back the dogs and their sleds and help get them to the start line when it is their turn. If they didn’t hold them back, they’d already be on their way to Nome before the race even started!
There are required rest stops, and even extra food and veterinarians posted along the trail to Nome to ensure that the animals are checked and if a dog shows any signs of stress, illness, or injury they are immediately withdrawn from the race. So, please, nobody waste time worrying about our sled dogs. They are the elite of the dog world up here and thrive on the attention and excitement. I imagine every dog in Alaska fantacizes about hitting the trail to Nome!
The race of about 1100 grueling miles, commemorates the time in 1925 when relays of dog teams delivered 300,000 units of diptheria serum to epidemic stricken Nome.
The trail follows an old dog team mail trail which was started in 1910 when mail was dog teamed from Knik to Nome. I guess sort of a ‘canine pony express’!
The earliest Iditarod race was in 1967, begun by Joe Reddington Sr. and a prominent local figure, a lady named Dorothy Page. That race was only 56 miles long. Todays race of the full 1100 miles was begun in 1973, making this year’s race the 33rd running of the present day Iditarod. Joe Reddington, Sr. is known to us as the ‘father of the Iditarod’.
This year’s first prize, won by Jeff King, was over $69,000.00. Truly a prize fit for a ‘king’. That’ll buy a lotta dogfood!
My favorite Iditarod memory is when our kids were young, we would go to the races with a hot, foil wrapped, baked potato in each of our pockets. These were our hand warmers. Surprising how long they stayed warm in our pockets…and when they got too cool to really warm our fingers, they were still warm enough to warm our tummies! We either didn’t know about pocket hand warmers, or else they didn’t market them yet. More likely, though, come to think of it, we were too poor to buy them when potatoes were free. (Now I’ll wait to see if anyone ‘bites’….as in WHY are potatoes free in Alaska?) (because they are.)
If you want to know more about the Iditarod, please check out www.iditarod.com See ya’ at the next question! -BJ