New Year, New Race

Posted: January 4, 2021

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the world’s most famous dog race. It’s an endurance race for sled dogs and their drivers. Every year, the course is icy, cold, and slippery. This year it will be too. But there is one thing that will be different from other years. The race will be much shorter. Officials have changed the course. They say it is to help keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

The driver of a dog sled is a called a musher. Every year at the very end of winter, mushers race their dogs across Alaska’s frontier. The race always starts on the first weekend in March. It usually stretches across 1,000 miles.

The 2021 race will begin on March 6, 2021. The course will be 140 miles shorter than normal. Competitors will race an 860-mile loop from and back to Willow, Alaska.

According to officials, every musher must test negative for the coronavirus before and during the race. Everyone must cover their faces and keep a safe distance at checkpoints.

This isn’t the first year a dog sled team will race across Alaska during a time when disease is spreading. The famous Siberian Husky Balto slid across the treacherous trail between Nenana, Alaska, and the town of Nome in 1925. Balto and his team weren’t racing against other competitors. They were racing against a deadly disease. The sled dogs transported life-saving medicine to the residents of Nome. The dogs helped save the entire population of Nome from catching diphtheria! 

Fast forward to 2021. There are 57 teams signed up to compete in this year’s Iditarod. Former champions Pete Kaiser, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, and Dallas Seavey are all expected to race.

 

Thomas Waerner of Norway arrives in Nome, Alaska, to win last year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on March 18, 2020. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)