The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

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The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska that is run each year in the first three months of a calendar year. The race began in 1973. Organizers had in mind a way to commemorate the 1925 Serum Run, which involved a series of dog teams transporting much-needed medicine to children in Nome.

Iditarod sled dogs

The race features dozens of mushers who ride on sleds and propel a team of dogs across snowy and icy terrain, in a generally northwest direction, from Willow to Nome.

A traditionally ceremonial start, an 11-mile jaunt through Anchorage, precedes the race start by a day. Then, racers are off, pushing themselves and their dogs to the limit for more than a week.

The race has two routes, the Northern and the Southern. The usual practice is that participants take the Northern route in even-numbered years and the Southern route in odd-numbered years.

Iditarod map both routes

The course record is 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds, set by Mitch Seavey in 2017.

According to the Board of Directors, "The object of the race is to determine which musher and dogs can cover the race in the shortest time under their own power and without aid of others. That is determined by the nose of the first dog to cross the finish line."

To facilitate that, the race has many rules. Among those rules are these:

  • A participant must be 18 years old and have completed a race of similar distance or demand and a handful of lesser-distance qualifying races
  • Iditarod musher
  • A participant must personally sign in at each checkpoint before continuing.
  • A participant must take one 24-hour stop at an official checkpoint, one eight-hour stop on the Yukon River, and one eight-hour stop at White Mountain. None of these mandatory stops may be combined.
  • A participant can use no more than three sleds. Those sleds must not have sails or wheels. Participants can use ski poles.
  • A participant must have snowshoes, cooker and pot (with fuel to boil water), ax, cold-weather sleeping bag, non-chafing harness for each dog, eight booties for each dog, and a veterinarian notebook to be handed over at each checkpoint.
  • A participant must have between 12 and 14 dogs at the start and five dogs at the finish.
  • Dogs must have adequate food and water and treated humanely.

Race rules require participants to call in at various checkpoints along the way. The first 10 are the same; then, they divide, missing out some in favor of other, depending on which route the race is following that year. The checkpoints are these:

Anchorage (ceremonial start
Willow Lake (actual race start)
Yentna Station
Finger Lake
Rainy Pass
Rohn Roadhouse
Northern Route
Southern Route
Eagle Island
White Mountain


Iditarod checkpoint



Iditarod checkpoint

Rick Swenson, with five (1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1991) has won the most Iditarod races. He completed 30 races and won in three different decades.

Other multiple champions:

  • Susan Butcher, 4 (1986, 1987, 1988, 1990)
  • Jeff King, 4 (1993, 1996, 1998, 2006)
  • Lance Mackey, 4 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Dallas Seavey, 4 (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
  • Doug Swingley, 4 (1995, 1999, 2000, 2001)
  • Martin Buser, 4 (1992, 1994, 1997, 2002)
  • Mitch Seavey, 3 (2004, 2013, 2017)
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Winners

1973Dick Wilmarth
1974Carl Huntington
1975Emmitt Peters
1976Jerry Riley
1977Rick Swenson
1978Dick Mackey
1979Rick Swenson
1980Joe May
1981Rick Swenson
1982Rick Swenson
1983Rick Mackey
1984Dean Osmar
1985Libby Riddles
1986Susan Butcher
1987Susan Butcher
1988Susan Butcher
1989Joe Runyan
1990Susan Butcher
1991Rick Swenson
1992Martin Buser
1993Jeff King
1994Martin Buser
1995Doug Swingley
1996Jeff King
1997Martin Buser
1998Jeff King
1999Doug Swingley
2000Doug Swingley
2001Doug Swingley
2002Martin Buser
2003Robert Sørlie
2004Mitch Seavey
2005Robert Sørlie
2006Jeff King
2007Lance Mackey
2008Lance Mackey
2009Lance Mackey
2010Lance Mackey
2011John Baker
2012Dallas Seavey
2013Mitch Seavey
2014Dallas Seavey
2015Dallas Seavey
2016Dallas Seavey
2017Mitch Seavey
2018Joar Leifseth Ulsom


Rick Swenson
Rick Swenson


Susan Butcher
Susan Butcher


Martin Buser
Martin Buser


Jeff King
Jeff King


Lance Mackey
Lance Mackey


Dallas Seavey
Dallas Seavey

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2020
David White

Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2020
David White