Almost fifty years have passed since the first running of the Iditarod. In that time, the race has gained in popularity and is one of the cultural highlights of the state of Alaska.
The Iditarod covers almost 1,000 miles of challenging terrain for mushers and dogs. A southern route and a northern route is used in alternate years to bring the race to different parts of the state.
Most of the race utilizes a trail that was in place long before the Iditarod was a sled dog race. The Iditarod Trail has its origins at the turn of the twentieth century, when it was used firstly by Native Alaskans for hunting and traveling, and then cleared by government employees in 1908. In an era where airplanes did not exist, dog teams were tasked with delivering mail and packages to remote areas of Alaska.
Mushing became a popular winter sport amongst locals in the first half of the 1900s, popularized by the 1925 serum run to Nome (also called The Great Race of Mercy). As a large diphtheria epidemic threatened the inhabitants of Nome, the required antitoxin was almost a thousand miles away in Anchorage. Sled dogs were used as the only reliable way to get the antitoxin from Anchorage to Nome, and a team of one hundred dogs were able to relay the package over a distance of 674 miles from Nenana to Nome.
The First Iditarod Race
In the early 1970s, a man by the name of Joe Redington Sr. – who lived in Alaska – felt it was important to preserve the heritage of sled dogs in the state. After initial races took place in the 1960s, Redington – along with two school teachers, Gleo Huyck and Tom Johnson – formed a plan in October 1972 for the first race to take place in 1973.
The first race attracted 34 mushers, with 22 reaching the finish line. A purse of $51,000 was made available. Dick Wilmarth won the first Iditarod in a time of 20 days, 0 hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds (for context, modern-day winning times are around 8-9 days).
After this, Redington became known as the Father of the Iditarod, a phrase coined by local newspapers in Alaska.
- 1973 – The first edition of the Iditarod is held, won by Dick Wilmarth.
- 1978 – The closest finish in the history of the Iditarod, as Dick Mackey beats Rick Swenson by just one second.
- 1985 – Libby Riddles becomes the first woman to win the Iditarod, the only musher to brave a fearsome blizzard.
- 1991 – Rick Swenson becomes the first (and so far, only) five-time winner of the Iditarod.
- 1992 – Martin Buser of Switzerland becomes the first non-US musher to win the Iditarod.
- 1996 – Jeff King becomes the first musher to complete the race in under ten days.
- 2017 – Mitch Seavey sets the current record for the fastest finishing time in Iditarod history.
Roll of Honor
|1973||Dick Wilmarth||20 days, 00:49:41|
|1974||Carl Huntington||20 days, 15:02:07|
|1975||Emmitt Peters||14 days, 14:43:45|
|1976||Gerald Riley||18 days, 22:58:17|
|1977||Rick Swenson||16 days, 16:27:13||First multiple time winner; first non-Alaskan winner|
|1978||Dick Mackey||14 days, 18:52:24|
|1979||Rick Swenson||15 days, 10:37:47|
|1980||Joe May||14 days, 07:11:51|
|1981||Rick Swenson||12 days, 08:45:02|
|1982||Rick Swenson||16 days, 04:40:10|
|1983||Rick Mackey||12 days, 14:10:44|
|1984||Dean Osmar||12 days, 15:07:33|
|1985||Libby Riddles||18 days, 00:20:17||First female winner|
|1986||Susan Butcher||11 days, 15:06:00|
|1987||Susan Butcher||11 days, 02:05:13||First multiple time female winner|
|1988||Susan Butcher||11 days, 11:41:40|
|1989||Joe Runyan||11 days, 05:24:34|
|1990||Susan Butcher||11 days, 01:53:23|
|1991||Rick Swenson||12 days, 16:34:39||Only five-time winner|
|1992||Martin Buser||10 days, 19:17:15||First non-US winner|
|1993||Jeff King||10 days, 15:38:15|
|1994||Martin Buser||10 days, 13:05:39|
|1995||Doug Swingley||10 days, 13:02:39|
|1996||Jeff King||9 days, 05:43:13|
|1997||Martin Buser||9 days, 08:30:45|
|1998||Jeff King||9 days, 05:52:26|
|1999||Doug Swingley||9 days, 14:31:07|
|2000||Doug Swingley||9 days, 00:58:06|
|2001||Doug Swingley||9 days, 19:55:50|
|2002||Martin Buser||8 days, 22:46:02|
|2003||Robert Sørlie||9 days, 15:47:36|
|2004||Mitch Seavey||9 days, 12:20:22|
|2005||Robert Sørlie||9 days, 18:39:30|
|2006||Jeff King||9 days, 11:11:36|
|2007||Lance Mackey||9 days, 05:08:41|
|2008||Lance Mackey||9 days, 11:46:48|
|2009||Lance Mackey||9 days, 21:38:46|
|2010||Lance Mackey||8 days, 23:59:09|
|2011||John Baker||8 days, 18:46:39|
|2012||Dallas Seavey||9 days, 04:29:26|
|2013||Mitch Seavey||9 days, 07:39:56|
|2014||Dallas Seavey||8 days, 13:04:19|
|2015||Dallas Seavey||8 days, 18:13:06|
|2016||Dallas Seavey||8 days, 11:20:16|
|2017||Mitch Seavey||8 days, 03:40:13||Fastest ever completion|
|2018||Joar Leifseth Ulsom||9 days, 12:00:00|
|2019||Peter Kaiser||9 days, 12:39:06|
|2020||Thomas Wærner||9 days, 10:37:47|