The 2010 Iditarod kicks off today with the ceremonial start in Anchorage, Alaska. There is a deep and experienced field of 71 mushers set to hit the trail for the 38th annual running of this event that is called “The Last Great Race”, and is legendary the world over for its challenges.
With the ceremonial start out of the way, the true race will begin on Sunday from Willow, where the drivers, and their amazing sled dogs, will set off for Nome, some 1161 miles away. Being an even numbered year, the teams will take the Northern Route this season, which means they’ll pass through the remote villages of Cripple, Ruby, Galena, and Nulato along their way to the finish line, with traditional checkpoints in places like Rainy Pass, Rhon, McGrath, Ophir, and many others making their annual appearances as well.
The 1100+ mile course will take anywhere from 10-20 days to complete, depending on conditions out on the trail. The race is quite the test of endurance for both the mushers and their dogs, as they face howling winds, challenging mountain passes, blizzards, and white out conditions. Winners receive a cut of the purse, which varies from year to year, and a new pick-up truck, which comes in pretty handy in Alaska.
The top mushers to watch in the year’s race include three time defending champ Lance Mackey, who remains the best bet to win. Past champions Jeff King, Mitch Seavey and Martin Buser always remain threats to take it all, and of course, there always seems to be young, hungry challenger lurking in the pack.