Iditarod mushers begin dog-sled trip across Alaskan tundra

Mon Mar 3, 2014 8:28am EST
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By Steve Quinn

(Reuters) - Nearly 70 competitors from around the world set off from a frozen lake on Sunday to challenge reigning Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey at the true start of Alaska's famed and grueling sled-dog race.

The nearly 1,000-mile (1,600-km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicked off a day earlier when 69 mushers and their canine teams made a ceremonial jaunt through Anchorage.

The business end of the race began in Willow, a small community about 50 miles north of Anchorage, where the teams embarked in a journey across the Alaskan tundra that the fastest will compete in a little over nine days.

After Willow, the next checkpoint was 42 miles away at the tiny settlement of Yentna Station, with Danny Kaduce reaching it the quickest time and then setting off for the next checkpoint.

The race commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that carried diphtheria serum by sled-dog relay to the coastal community of Nome, which remains the final destination in this 42nd edition of the event.

Seavey, 54 and born in Minnesota, is racing for the 20th time. He said he was following in a path blazed by his father, Dan, who ran the inaugural race 42 years ago.

"I love the lifestyle," Seavey said. "Being able to raise four boys as mushers has made it very rewarding."

Competitors brave darkness, steep climbs and temperatures well below freezing. Distances between teams will grow along with the isolation.   Continued...

Musher Rick Casillo greets spectators during the official restart to the Iditarod dog sled race in Willow, Alaska, March 2, 2014. REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder