Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! Mine was very exciting because I finally got to cross something off my bucket list – watching the ceremonial start of the Iditarod! For those of you who totally spaced out during the Balto lesson in elementary school, in 1925 there was a diphtheria outbreak and a bunch of sled dog teams had to transport the life-saving serum from Seward, AK up to Nome, AK. The final dog sled team, whose lead dog was Balto, made it to Nome to save the day. Back in 1973, they began holding the current Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome on the Iditarod trail (1,049 miles) and it’s now the biggest sporting event in Alaska! To learn more about the race, go here.
Throwback running selfie from when my typical running route in Seward included part of the historic Iditarod trail!
When I moved to Alaska two years ago, I was so excited about getting to see the ceremonial start of the Iditarod in Anchorage and crossing it off my bucket list. I mean, I live 2 minutes from downtown where the ceremonial starting line is located, so it’s a no brainer, right? Except that last year I totally got confused by ceremonial start (mushers get to ride through crowds and meet fans) on Saturday vs. restart (the actual competitive start of the race) on Sunday, and completely missed the Anchorage start because I went out for a long run! So this year I was ready for it, and headed downtown at 10 am on Saturday morning for the ceremonial start!
Standing at the start line with thousands of people!
The crowds in Anchorage were pretty insane, and my husband and I were trying so hard to find a spot where we could see the teams go by. You may have heard on the news that they had to bring in snow by train from Fairbanks to line the streets for the race because we didn’t get any snow this year (again), so it was pretty hard to walk around on the side streets where the mushers were keeping their dogs and sleds. We tried out a few spots before finally realizing that we could get the best view from up in the parking garage!
Looking down towards the start line
Heading out towards Willow for the restart on Sunday!
It was such a fun experience being at the start of the “Last Great Race”! All the spectators were cheering for each team, which get their own personal send off every two minutes. It took about 2 hours to get everyone out on the trail and we spent that time spectating, drinking coffee to stay warm, and meeting up with friends up and down 4th Ave.
Watching one of the final teams head to the start line
After the Iditarod was over, we spent a few hours hanging out in Flattop Pizza and Kaladi Brothers Coffee to kill time before the Running of the Reindeer! My friend was running in it, so we were excited to cheer her on and hopefully not see her get killed by reindeer antlers. It’s probably the only race in town that doesn’t involve any running skill whatsoever – even if you’re the fastest person out there, the reindeer will catch up. Luckily she made it out in one piece and we celebrated with reindeer hot dogs!
Running the course in my reindeer antlers before the real reindeer get out there
The real reindeer getting ready for their big race!
I really love running races, but it’s so much fun to spectate them instead – especially when the real athletes are the dogs! You may remember my experience dog sledding on a glacier two summers ago, and how much of an amazing experience it was to be pulled across the snow by a bunch of overjoyed puppies. These dogs LOVE running and it was so much fun to watch them speeding down 4th with giant silly grins on their faces!
Shoutout to the OG lead dog, Balto!
The teams all traveled to Willow (an hour and a half north of here) by car and then started the actual race on Sunday at 2 pm. The winners are projected to reach the finish line in Nome in under 10 days. I have a very strong feeling that Dallas Seavey will win again this year (it would be his 4th win) but I really want DeeDee Jonrowe to win! She’s one badass lady and she lost all of her possessions in the wildfire in Willow last June after opting to save her dogs over saving her house, so I’m really hoping she can win it. You can follow her progress here! Or you can learn more about the other 80ish teams that are running the race right now and pick your own winner.
Have you ever been dogsledding? Would you ever come to Alaska for the Iditarod?