The Iditarod is more than just a dog race. It is an Alaskan tradition of toughness, endurance and heart. And my heart follows the race each year with faithfulness, nostalgia, and excitement as old favorites battle on with upcoming stars and the elements in their race to Nome.
The Iditarod trail is roughly 1,150 miles and has a ceremonial start in Anchorage, then restarts in Willow for the real race to Nome. Men and women compete together with racers from all over the world coming to Alaska to pit themselves against the elements in this amazing dog race.
A big hero growing up was Susan Butcher. She was the second woman to ever win the Iditarod and only woman to win it 4 times overall. She was a big deal in the late 80’s and won many awards for her athleticism, determination and skills. Since her last victory in 1990, only men have finished first (Hopefully Ali Zirkle will break this run!). I could't count the times as a child I cheered her on and named her as my hero.
Every couple years the kids and I head to Anchorage the first weekend in March to watch the ceremonial start of the Iditarod. We get to enjoy the Fur Rondy rides at the carnival and walk through the ice sculpture competition. This is an exciting experience for the kids and even after we head home, we meticulously follow the news of the Iditarod to see who reaches each check point and who wins. Dallas Seavey, Lance Mackey and Ali Zirkle are big favorites of ours.
Our family likes to stay at the Comfort Inn at Ship Creek in down town Anchorage because of the reasonable rates, kid friendly pool and close proximity to the ice sculptures, carnival and Iditarod start. This is a great winter destination full of activities for the family.
One of the tricks to taking kids outdoors when the temps are super low is good gear and hand warmers. Putting hand warmers in gloves or pockets seems to make all the difference when the cold creeps in past all the layers. Especially when hours are spent watching the race and then riding carnival rides with bitter air rushing past. There are places to buy hot drinks or food to warm up and help make the day memorable and fun.
Still, my favorite part of our weekend was watching the mushers take off from the starting line. And while near the start, we always stop at the Fur Rondy office and pick up the yearly art pin.
The Iditarod happens at the end of the Fur Rondy celebration and there is an extensive list of fun activities to attend during its week long schedule such as the blanket toss, fireworks, the outhouse race, the running of the reindeer, and the snowshoe softball tournament. Check out the Fur Rondy schedual of events here.