Associated Press
Starting line for the Iditarod. The race starts on March 1 and runs for several days.

9 Facts About Iditarod, ‘The Last Great Race on Earth'

Richard Walker

For more than a week, mushers and their dog teams will race across 1,000 miles of rough, beautiful Alaska terrain.

They will fight fatigue, endure subzero temperatures and zero visibility from windswept snow, and navigate through mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra, windswept coast.

This is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, aka the ‘Last Great Race on Earth.’

The race route – between Anchorage and Nome – incorporates portions of routes used for generations by Alaska Native mushers, by dog teams that delivered mail and supplies to mining camps in the early 1900s.

As challenging as it may be, it’s arguably the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery that one can experience. Mike Williams Sr., Yu’pik, a veteran musher, talked about the beauty on this ancestral route.

“When we get to Rohn and Rainy Pass, that’s where my people used to hunt,” Williams Sr. said in an earlier interview. “We’ve had dogs forever, for thousands of years. We’ve always had a special relationship with them and we’re going to continue to. Like our language and our culture, it’s a part of who we are.”

It’s a race rich in history. Here are 9 facts you should know about the Iditarod. 

What does “Iditarod” mean?

The official race history cites James Kasri of the University of Alaska Native Language Center, “’Iditarod’ comes from an Ingalik word meaning ‘distant’ or ‘distant place.’” This word is still known by elders in the villages of Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling and Holy Cross, the race history states.


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