Despite Light Snow at Start, Iditarod Off and Running

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March 8, 2016

The dogs and their people are off and racing in the 2016 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. All told, 85 teams started the race, the 44th running of the event that commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that delivered medicine to the needy in Nome.

It’s an even-numbered year, so the racers will follow the Northern Route, which starts in Willow and finishes in Nome (after the ceremonial start in Anchorage), 975 miles later.

The ceremonial start in Anchorage didn’t feature much snow because temperatures in the area had been well above freezing for a few days before the event. In fact, race organizers shortened the 11-mile ceremonial journey to 3 miles. Mushers and their dogs, however, will face cold and blustery conditions along the way.

Each team has 16 dogs (to start with), aged 3 to 8. The idea is to get to the finish line. Race rules call for each team to take one 24-hour rest and two other separate 8-hour rest stops during the race. Most finishers cross the line 8-10 days after starting. The record is 8 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes, 19 seconds, set by Dallas Seavey in 2014.

This year’s winner will get $50,400 and a new pickup truck. The total cash available is $750,000.

Expected to be at the front of the pack near the end are the father-and-son team of Mitch and Dallas Seavey, who between them have won the last four races, and Aliy Zirkle, who has finished in second place in three of those years. Dallas Seavey is looking for a three-peat this year, having won in 2014 and 2015. He also won in 2012, and the only reason he isn’t already a four-in-a-row champion is that his father, Mitch Seavey, won in 2013. (Mitch won in 2004 also.)

Four-time champion Martin Buser (1992, 1994, 1997, 2002) is in the field, as are Jeff King (1993, 1996, 1998, and 2006), Lance Mackey (2007–2010), Robert Sorlie (2003 and 2005 and (from Norway) the only-non-American to ever win the race), and John Baker (2011).

Of the 85 humans in the race, 26 are women.

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