The Iditarod dog sled race starts in Alaska tomorrow, and the Junior Dispatch will do its best to offer you all the coverage we can on the competition.
In recent years, the race has taken less and less time. Now it takes about 8 or 9 days for the first dog sled to cross the finish line in Nome. The race course is about 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome.
As is usual with our Iditarod coverage, we will also offer a fun reading project to go along with the race. This year, we are presenting “Rescue Dog of the High Pass” an adventure story of a boy and his dog works as a rescue team in a wintery mountain range.
Also, Junior Dispatch is presenting its Iditarod Fast-Facts which are quick informational nuggets about the race, the racers and the dogs who make it all happen. Look for those on most weekdays!
Here are a few Fast-Facts to start you off as you learn about the Iditarod:
In this photo from 2012, veterinarian Scott Rosenbloom takes a look at a dog team at the vet check at Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla, Alaska. The ceremonial start for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race is Saturday, March 2, 2013, in Anchorage. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Mark Lester)
VET CHECKS: Before the race begins and at every checkpoint, the dogs involved in the race are checked by veterinarians for signs of injury, sickness, exhaustion and abuse. The pre-race vet check also includes blood and ECG tests to make sure there’s no disease or irregular heartbeats among the animals.
Each year about 1,000 dogs will be examined before the race even begins.
Check out this video for more about what the vets look for in the dogs.
RULES OF THE GAME: Interested in the exact rules of the race? Well check out this PDF, which explains the right and wrong way to do things, including what absolutely must be on every sled, such as snow shoes, an axe and an emergency GPS tracking beacon.
To even enter the race at all, a musher needs to have proven himself or herself in other, shorter dog sled races first. You also need $3,000 — that’s how much it costs to register for the race.
WHO’S RACING? Read musher profiles on links from this page. Each person has a biography linked to their name. You can learn about their hometown, hobbies, schools they went to and how old they are.
RACE COURSE: This year, the Iditarod is taking the northern route — the actual course alternates between a north rout and a south route. Originally, the race was 1,049 miles to represent 1,000 miles plus 49 miles because Alaska was the 49th state.
The longest stretch between checkpoints is from Kaltag to Unalakleet, where teams will be running 85 miles on their own. That section is about 2/3rds of the way through the course.
WEATHER: You can monitor the weather on the course here. As of this writing, which is mid-morning in Alaska, the warmest spot on the trail is about 25 degrees. The coldest is -17 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mushers brave the cold in typical winter clothes, but with plenty of layers. They wear heavy jackets, insulated gloves, fur hats, balaclavas, thick socks and anything else they can put on to keep warm.
Dogs wear a lot less, but most get booties to protect their footpads and to keep them warm. They also often wear smocks over their chests and abdomens to help keep in the heat.
View more Iditarod Fast-Facts here.