The 2013 running of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race is history. Without a doubt the racers have stories to tell about crossing the ice pack, fording overflows, racing against themselves, and much, much more. This race gets covered by the press, both digital and print. Following the digital story are comments from the readers. A lot of people take it upon themselves to become Iditarod bashers. I have read where some think that PETA and other animal cruelty prevention organizations should get involved. That is just the tip of the ice berg of opinions expressed about the Iditarod. Some good and some not so good. It shows that the reader(s) have no idea about huskies or dog sled races. They barely know anything about Alaska.
Here in Alaska, we have beautiful summers that are short by some standards. We have winters, that seem very long at times. We have scenery and vastness. Wildlife is just part of everyday life. And, maybe, because of the dark winter days, (only a little over 5 hours of daylight), we get cabin fever. Relief from this malady can take many forms. Winter carnivals are held in cities and towns. Snowmobiles get people out of their recliners and onto trails. Skiers and snowshoers are out there, too. And so are the dog racers. The racers themselves load up their dogs and make long runs, sharing the same trails as skiers and mechanized sleds.
News coverage of the Iditarod seems a little out of proportion compared to the other big race, the Yukon Quest. To set the record right here, the Yukon Quest is an another annual 1000 mile dog team race. It goes from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska, USA. Fairbanks and Whitehorse alternate the starting point from year to year. The Quest doesn’t have the story behind it like the Iditarod. But it is just as grueling. The Iditarod celebrates some early heroes who took on the trail from Seward, Alaska to Nome. Children were dying in a diphtheria outbreak in 1925. Several men and their teams set up a relay to carry the serum to Nome. Leonard Seppala and his team carried the serum the farthest and across the most dangerous part of the serum’s journey. Gunnar Kaassen and his famous lead dog Balto were the team that had the last relay into Nome. The present race was started as a celebration of the Centennial of Alaska’s purchase from Russia in 1967. Dorothy Page wanted a race to honor dog mushers. The first race held was called the Iditarod Trail Leonard Seppala Memorial Race. It was only 25 miles long. Over the years, it has blossomed into what it is today. The race is still run to commemorate the drive to save the children of Nome, the early mushers and their dogs.
Yes, the big races are long and arduous. The dog teams and their human element must train year round. You, see the race is not a cake walk. Even athletes as strong as huskies have to train. Huskies have lots of stamina, incredible intelligence and strength. Huskies love to run. When a dog team passes by all stretched out from their tag line running in unison, they are a picture of beauty. Huskies are happiest when they are given the green light and they can do what they have always done….run. They are loved and cared for by the kennel owners. So don’t feel sorry for the dogs, they are doing what they love best, running out there in the vastness of Alaska.