Musher Rick Casillo during the offical Iditarod start.

Musher Rick Casillo during the offical Iditarod start.

Saturday, March 7 marked the beginning of the annual Iditarod race in Anchorage, Alaska.

79 teams are competing to make their way 1,049 miles across the snowy Alaskan terrain.

The Iditarod tradition began in 1925 when a diptheria epidemic threatened a small town near Anchorage. Many children were contracting this deadly disease and the only way to save the children was by transporting medicine 674 miles across Alaska using dog sleds. 20 teams of mushers and over 100 dogs delivered the medicine back to the children in nearly five and a half days.

The lead dog of the final team to return was Balto, who became famous because his team endured the toughest and longest part of the journey.

Balto’s perseverance helped to begin the tradition of the red lantern.┬áThe red lantern is awarded to and extinguished by the last returning musher (sled driver). The red lantern let towns people know that there was a dog sled team in the area and that they should be arriving soon. It also helped the mushers and dogs find where they were going.

The Iditarod is not a just a competition it is a matter of perseverance. The race is not over when the first team crosses the finish line, there are still teams out on the trail, it is over when every musher has made it home.


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