We’re about to have the start of Iditarod XXXVIII. Have you ever thought about all the details race officials, staff and mushers have to address to successfully pull off one of these races spread out over a thousand miles? The number of details that need to be covered are staggering. In fact it might be fair to say that it wouldn’t be possible without the thousands and thousands of “man hours” put in by volunteers every year since 1973. There have always been a huge number of volunteers that work as trailbreakers, race judges, checkers, start coordinators, cooks, pilots, veterinarians, and those that work behind the scenes to answer phones, buy supplies and food to support race personal out on the trail. Then there’s all the great support that comes out of Alaska’s villages along the trail. The list is endless and the total number of hours that go into making each years race possible must be amazing.
Looking over the history of this race there are a few numbers that are interesting to consider. Not all these facts are rock solid but as close as I could find there have been 2,298 teams start the Iditarod throughout it’s history. Numbers aren’t easily found but I figure this to translate into about 36,768 dogs have gone out of the starting line of the Iditarod during all these years. Realize that many mushers have run multiple races and so have many of their dogs so this is just total starts. It appears that there have only been 818 individual people run the Iditarod and the saying goes that “more people have successfully climbed Mt. Everest than have successfully completed the Iditarod”. That alone attests to how difficult this race is to run. In fact about 21% of the mushers that have entered the race during it’s history have scratched before the finish line.
The largest number of teams to scratch in a single year was 1980 and 2007 both with 24. But 1980 had the largest percentage of scratches with 48% of the field not making it to the finish line. 1980 was said to have had some of the toughest trails ever and was won by Joe May. Joe himself once said he didn’t so much win that race as survived it!
The most wins of the Iditarod of course goes to Rick Swenson with five but even more amazing is the fact that he has entered 33. Think about that in terms of miles behind a team. You have miles of racing in the Iditarod and other preliminary races and miles of training to prepare the dogs. As just an educated guess that would put Rick Swensons miles behind a dog team somewhere around 82,500. Most likely a few thousand more in reality. For someone like Dee Dee Jonrowe with 27 Iditarod starts and 25 finishes she must have at least 65,500 miles on the back of a sled under her belt. (Minimum.)
If you look at the percentage of wins per races run you might consider our current champion Lance Mackey as the most winning, with 3 wins out of 8 runs. Pretty good percentage there! That’s with multiple championships of course. If not, we would have to look to Dick Wilmarth who won 100% of his Iditarods but only ran once in 1973, the very first Iditarod.
The family name with the most entrants in Iditarod’s history is Redington, with 7 different Redingtons completing the race. Joe Sr. would have liked that!
Then there’s the Seavey’s with 6. Dan Seavey started this family tradition by running the very first Iditarod in 1973.
Then let’s look at the numbers in this years race. 71 teams are entered. That means 1,136 dogs will be at the starting line on race day. That’s 4,544 feet that will need booties. A guess on the number of booties that will be sent out on the trail to protect all these dog paws is somewhere between 75,000 to 100,000. To feed all the dogs in the Iditarod this year will take between 1,700 to 2,275 pounds of food per day before racing. Once they start running during the race they consume more. Of the 71 teams in this year’s race there are 13 mushers from countries other than the US and 22 rookies are attempting their first Iditarod.
There’s lots of different ways to look at this race and it’s colorful history. The stories are endless and so are the details. When you consider the number of dogs, mushers, checkpoints and miles of trail involved, it’s easy to understand why the Iditarod Sled Dog Race is such a logistical effort to put on.