What is the Iditarod?

The Iditarod is an annual sled dog race across Alaska. The ceremonial start takes place in Anchorage; the official race actually begins in Willow and continues 1,000 miles to Nome. The modern race began in 1973 to test the best sled dog mushers and teams. It has since evolved into today’s highly competitive race that draws tens of thousands of attendees.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Iditarod is a dog sled race; it begins in Anchorage and runs roughly 1,000 miles to Nome, Alaska.
  2. A much-needed Diptheria serum run in 1925 inspired today’s race. That winter, mushers delivered a life-saving medical treatment to the isolated community. 
  3. Today, roughly 50 teams compete annually – comprised of one musher and roughly 16 dogs.

Understanding the Iditarod

The Iditarod occurs each March, pitting man and beast against the forces of the Alaskan winter. A Diptheria serum run in 1925 inspired the Iditarod race. During that winter, mushers delivered a life-saving medical treatment to the isolated community of Nome. 

The modern Iditarod race began in 1973 to test the best sled dog mushers and teams. It has since evolved into today’s highly competitive race that draws tens of thousands of attendees. Roughly 50 teams of one musher and an average of 16 dogs set out from the ceremonial start in Anchorage (followed by an official start in Willow), to race roughly 1,000 miles to Nome, Alaska.

The race takes an average of 15 days, though the fastest teams have taken as few as 8-9 days. In school, students often each draw a musher in the race and track them for the time they are on the trail. (I did this as a kid in elementary school!)

For those who want to attend the Iditarod ceremonial start, you won’t be alone. The Iditarod draws crowds of up to 50,000 to Anchorage to watch the ceremonial start. Mark your calendars: it occurs in the first week of March each year.

Related Terms

Alyeska Glossary Card
Southcentral Definition Card
Interior Definition Card

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