Iditarod mushers begin nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska

Iditarod mushers begin nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The world’s most famous sled dog race started Monday with 72 mushers setting off from a city in the heart of Alaska and embarking on a nearly 1,000-mile trek across the wilderness.

The grandson of a co-founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was the first competitor on the trail.

Ryan Redington, 33, of Wasilla led the other mushers out of the chute in Fairbanks nearly a half-century after his grandfather, Joe Redington Sr., helped stage the first race in 1973.

The contest has a staggered start so fans, including 2,600 schoolchildren, can cheer on the mushers, who leave every two minutes.

The fan-friendly ceremonial start of the race was held Saturday in Anchorage.

The competitive start is normally held a day later in Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. But that start would have taken mushers over the Dalzell Gorge, where a lack of snow has left alders exposed on the trail and open water in places that normally would be frozen this time of year.

Winter conditions were not a concern in Fairbanks, where the temperature was minus 35 degrees Monday morning. The start was delayed a day to give mushers times to drive their dogs 360 miles north to the city of about 100,000 in interior Alaska.

Eighty-four mushers signed up for the race, and 13 scratched. The latest was Otto Balogh, a 40-year-old rookie from Budapest, Hungary, who cited health concerns when dropping out of the race two hours before it began.

Dallas Seavey, 30, has won four out of the last five races. He feels no pressure to get a record-tying fifth win, and is fully cognizant that winning streaks can only go for so long.

“And I’m truly OK with that, as long as I can look back on the race and know I ran my team to the best of their ability, and we all had a good run,” Seavey said.

Mark Thiessen, The Associated Press

Canadian Press