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Iditarod's ceremonial start begins in downtown Anchorage

Iditarod's ceremonial start begins in downtown Anchorage

A record field of mushers drove dog teams through Alaska's largest city Saturday in the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Well-bundled spectators braved wind-chills hovering around minus-15 degrees Celsius (just above zero Fahrenheit) to line up along the 18-kilometer (11-mile) run from downtown's Fourth Avenue. Many in the crowd traveled to Alaska just to experience part of the race.
"I decided if I wanted to see the Iditarod, I better get to doing it," said 91-year-old Roberta Moore, who lives near Tampa, Florida, and has read about the Iditarod for years.
The actual start of the 2,600-kilometer (1,100-mile) race begins Sunday in Willow, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the north. That's when mushers start seriously chasing after this year's $875,000 (euro576,900) purse, to be paid out among the top 30 finishers to cross the burled arch in Nome. There are 96 teams, including six past winners, in the race this year.
Mushers were relaxed for Saturday's noncompetitive run, but many of their dogs were wild with eagerness, barking, wagging their tails, jumping in place.
The show is staged for the throngs who come to cheer as their favorite teams lope by on streets packed with trucked-in snow. During the short run, mushers carry passengers, called Idita-Riders, who bid for the privilege in a yearly auction.
As his turn at the symbolic starting line approached, 2007 champion Lance Mackey hustled to put booties on his dogs' feet. He took frequent breaks to sign autographs and pose for photographs with well-wishers.
"You bet," he said to a fan's thanks.
Mackey, a throat cancer survivor, hopes to repeat last year's historic run. The 37-year-old Fairbanks resident became the first musher ever to win two grueling races back-to-back: the Iditarod and the 1,600-kilometer (1,000-mile) Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Less than two weeks ago, he won his fourth consecutive Quest and is using many of the same dogs for the trek to Nome, an old gold rush town on Alaska's western coast.
"I feel very excited," Mackey said. "I'm ready to get on the trails for the free muffins and hot dogs out there."
The Iditarod, begun in 1973, commemorates a run by sled dogs in 1925 to deliver lifesaving diphtheria serum to Nome.


Updated : 2021-07-27 05:15 GMT+08:00