State of Alaska | Matt Hage

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Snow, trails and wild tails! The Last Great Race is an endurance race through wide-open spaces of Alaska for the four-legged, gold-medal athletes of the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

This annual clash of the canines pushes mushers and dog teams through the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. It’s 1,049 miles of pure adrenaline, and it all begins in the city of Anchorage, 10 a.m., Saturday, March 5, 2016.

The ceremonial start is held each year on the first Saturday in March. It begins on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage and ends near Campbell Creek, offering onlookers an opportunity to experience history as they get a close-up view of the teams preparing for the long journey to Nome. The ceremonial start in Anchorage also coincides with two other great winter eventsFur Rendezvous and the Tour of Anchorage. After a restart at Willow on Sunday, Iditarod mushers leave the land of highways and bustling activity and start their journey in earnest.

Call "Shotgun" in the next Iditarod

For an extraordinary thrill, secure a spot in one of the Iditarod contenders’ sled baskets and get an up-close view of the action for the first 11 miles of the race during the Anchorage ceremonial start. Imagine being tucked snugly in a sled basket as the cool wind whips by and the musher calls encouragement to the dogs. Spots for this once-in-a-lifetime experience are limited and are auctioned off to the highest bidder in the IditaRider Auction.

You can also follow the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race® by air on a special flightseeing package or take a snowmobiling tour to cheer on the amazing four-legged athletes as they make their way to Nome.

If following the trail all the way to Nome is out of reach, there's plenty of Iditarod action in Anchorage after the start. During the race, the action is centered at the The Lakefront Anchorage – official headquarters of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Race updates are also shared through the official Iditarod website.

History of the Last Great Race

During the gold rush era, the Iditarod National Historic Trail was a supply route to mining camps, trading posts and remote bush areas. Mushers carried out most of the $30 million in gold mined in the interior and northwestern Alaska. Part of the trail became a lifeline in 1925 when a diphtheria epidemic hit Nome. Twenty mushers and their doges rushed through subzero conditions to deliver serum that saved many lives in the isolated coastal village. The serum run to Nome made international headlines, and the most famous dog, Balto, is memorialized in a statue in New York's Central Park.

By the mid 1960's, most people in Alaska didn't even know there was an Iditarod Trail or that dog teams had played a very important part in Alaska's early settlement. Dorothy G. Page, a self-made historian, recognized the importance of the Iditarod Trail and the part it played in Alaska's colorful history.

She presented the possibility of a race over the trail to an enthusiastic Joe Redington, Sr. Soon an event using part of the trail turned into promoting a long-distance race using this trail to Nome.

Now, the race is an international event. Past participants have come from countries including Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Italy, Japan, Australia, Sweden and even Jamaica.