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Mush! Keep Pace With The 2013 Iditarod Race Online

by John Moore on February 27, 2013

Iditarod race coverageIt’s called “The Last Great Race on Earth.” The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a grueling, nearly 1,000-mile trek through Alaska, from Anchorage to Nome. This year’s race, Iditarod XLI, begins March 2, 2013, when a total of 66 mushers — drivers of the dog sleds — and their teams of 16 dogs each will take on the challenge.

The race typically lasts 10 to 15 days, and the actual mileage varies from year to year. This being an odd-numbered year, the race travels the northern route and totals 975 miles (the race takes the southern route in even-numbered years). In 2008, John Baker set the record for the fastest finish: eight days, 18 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds.


Warm weather forced several changes ahead of this year’s Iditarod. Several qualifying events were postponed, canceled, or rerouted due to lack of snow. That’s had a significant affect on first-time mushers. To qualify for the Iditarod, mushers must complete at least two 300-mile races along with several smaller races for a total of 750 miles, and the warm weather has made that a challenge for newcomers.

There’s been other drama, as well. Five-time champion Rick Swenson dropped out of the race, citing personal reasons. It’s the first time since 1997 that Swenson, the winningest musher in history, won’t compete.

Save And Watch Dogs On The Run Videos

Download your favorite Iditarod race videos online and save them in your personal video cloud. Then you can watch the video on your phone, tablet, and even TV.

You can follow the action on video through the official Iditarod website. Free registration gives you access to ad-supported video content, such as race documentaries, and the ability to get email alerts on your favorite musher. Subscribing as a Video Insider ($19.95) gets you commercial-free video content, including the live start of the race, the ability to track up to five mushers with email alerts. The GPS Insider package ($19.95) lets you track the action in real time by linking to the GPS devices on the sleds. If you don’t want to miss a thing, the $33.95 Ultimate Insider package combines the Video Insider and GPS offerings.


The Iditarod race isn’t for adventure-seeking dilettantes. Preparation is intense. Since they’ll be dealing with frigid conditions and rugged terrain, mushers must be in top physical condition. They also need to know how to care for the dogs and maintain their equipment, as well as possess wilderness survival skills. Prior to the start of the race, mushers must pack and ship all of the food (for dogs and humans) they’ll need to the 22 checkpoints along the trail.

If you’ve wondered what it takes to embark on a 1,000-mile dog sled race through the Alaskan wilderness, you can check out behind-the-scenes footage from some of the musher teams. Last year, Dallas Seavey became the youngest-ever Iditarod winner at age 25. Seavey’s team sponsor, J.J. Keller & Associates, has a website dedicated to Seavey’s quest in this year’s race, including videos on how to do equipment maintenance and cooking on the trail.

SP Kennel, sponsor of last year’s runner-up Aliy Zirkle, has a YouTube channel chronicling its teams’ journey to this year’s Iditarod, as well as footage dating back to 2010. Additionally, the Discovery Channel has a lengthy video playlist — culled from its documentary Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth — that provides insight into how teams prepare for the Iditarod race.

Which mushers will you be tracking in this year’s Iditarod? Have you ever thought about trying it yourself? Let us know in the comments section.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 margery glickman February 28, 2013 at 8:07 am

Iditarod dogs suffer horrendous cruelty every day of their lives. Mushers have drowned, shot, bludgeoned and dragged many dogs to death. For example, Iditarod musher Dave Olesen drowned a litter of newborn puppies. Another musher got rid of unwanted puppies by tying them in a bag and tossing the bag in a creek. Mushers even have a saying about not breeding dogs unless they can drown them: “Those who cannot drown should not breed.”

Terrible things happen to dogs during the Iditarod. This includes: death, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, kennel cough, broken bones, torn muscles and extreme stress. At least 142 dogs have died in the race, including four dogs who froze to death in the brutal cold.

Veterinary care during the Iditarod is poor. In the 2012 race, one of Lance Mackey’s male dogs ripped out all of his 16 toenails trying to get to a female who was in heat. This type of broken toenail is extremely painful. Mackey, a four-time Iditarod winner, said he was too stubborn to leave this dog at a checkpoint and veterinarians allowed Mackey to continue to race him. Imagine the agony the dog was forced to endure.
Here’s another example: Veterinarians have allowed dogs with kennel cough to race in the Iditarod even though dogs with this disease should be kept warm and given lots of rest. Strenuous exercise can cause lung damage, pneumonia and even death. To make matters worse, kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that normally lasts from 10 to 21 days.

Iditarod dogs endure brutal training. Jeanne Olson, who has been a veterinarian in Alaska since 1988, confirmed the brutality used by mushers training dogs for the Iditarod. She talked about dogs having cracked ribs, broken jaws or skulls from mushers using two-by-fours for punishment. In an article published by the University of Alaska, Dr. Olson said, “There are mushers out there whose philosophy is…that if that dog acts up I will hit that dog to the point where it would rather die than do what it did, ’cause the next time it is gonna die.’”

Jane Stevens, a former Iditarod dog handler, describes a dog beating in her letter published by the Whitehorse Star (Feb. 23, 2011). She wrote: “I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry’s most high-profile top 10 mushers. Be assured the beating was clearly not within an ‘acceptable range’ of ‘discipline’. Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked. After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact. He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground. He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly.”

During the 2007 race, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jon Saraceno wrote in his column in USA Today, “He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens. Or dragging them to their death.”

Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, “Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective…A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective.” He also said, “It is a common training device in use among dog mushers…” Former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford wrote in Alaska’s Bush Blade Newspaper: “Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don’t pull are dragged to death in harnesses…..”

FOR MORE FACTS: Sled Dog Action Coalition,

2 Jack G March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Met Lance Mackey in Fairbanks last August. He is a real champion with all the success he has garnered while overcoming such major obstacles as his early struggles, his battle with cancer and its after effects, etc. Here’s hoping this champ comes thorugh again.

3 Brad March 8, 2013 at 11:04 am

I think that this is one of the last great challenges left on earth. You named it “The last great race on earth.” I couldn’t agree more. I understand that it is hard on man and dog but the will to compete is strong in both.

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