Living in Alaska · Weekend · Winter

Spectating the “Last Great Race” – Iditarod 2016

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.

IMG_0566Throwback 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!

img_0647Standing 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!

img_0661Looking down towards the start line

img_0663

img_0664Heading 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.

img_0679

img_0710Watching 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!

img_0729Running the course in my reindeer antlers before the real reindeer get out there

img_0754The 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!

img_0740Shoutout 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?

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21 thoughts on “Spectating the “Last Great Race” – Iditarod 2016

  1. What a cool experience! Genius idea to go up in a parking garage to see better. When we were in Alaska a couple of years ago we visited a dog sled training place and it was so cool to ride!

    1. Well we were originally standing next to the parking garage and then we noticed how many people were up there hanging over the rails! It was such a cool view of Anchorage. Which dog sledding place did you visit? I’ve done both Turning Heads Kennel and the Seavey’s Iditaride (which are both in Seward) but want to try it again! I clearly need to find friends who have a team 🙂

  2. So jealous! My cousin (aka the only other Alaskan I know, lol) went to the start as well. I loved seeing her snaps this weekend. When I was little there was a sled dog race that went right by my house in northern Michigan. I love watching the dogs so much.

    1. Yes! You start running, and like 20 seconds later they release like 10 reindeer and they run through the crowd. No one has ever gotten hurt from the reindeer, but since people are super drunk they sometimes fall and get trampled by people. Alaskans are pretty weird sometimes 🙂

    1. Haha I definitely was! I kept screaming about how cute and excited all the dogs were! It looked like they were having the time of their lives. And yes, those dogs are smelly! They have to go to the bathroom while running which is totally crazy!

  3. I bet that was so exciting seeing the start of the Iditarod! I recently finished The Sports Gene and there is an entire section about the race. Those sled dogs are incredible!

  4. How cool! I LOVED Balto when I was a kid- it was one of my favorite cartoon movies! I also LOVE huskies- I’ve said if I ever got a dog it would be a Husky. They’re just so beautiful! I would love to go to Alaska and see the Iditarod and the Northern Lights! Those are on my bucket list- don’t know about living there though. It’s too cold for this Florida girl!

    1. You should definitely come up here! I have to warn you though – if you want to see the Iditarod or the northern lights, you have to come in the winter! 🙂 I don’t get to see the lights that often in Anchorage, but if you go to Fairbanks in the winter you’ll definitely see them on a clear night (but it’s so much colder up there!)! Let me know if you ever come up here!

  5. That sounds like such a fun experience! I saw a snippet on TV and heard about the snow, but your pictures tell the story much better,

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