Most people are familiar with how the Iditarod works. Normally, there is a "Traditional" start in Anchorage (that is for pomp and circumstance). Then the dogs and their mushers begin the actual race in Willow, Alaska. There are two typical Iditarod routes but both end the race about 1,000 miles north in Nome, Alaska. Along the way, mushers stop over in small Alaskan villages at various checkpoints and there are large crowds of people at the start and end of the race to cheer on the racers.
Well that is normally... Enter, COVID-19. In fact last year, COVID-19 made its way to Alaska when most mushers were already on the trail with their dogs, some not even hearing about it entering the state until after the race was completed. This year, things had to change. Many Alaskan villages had desperately tried all year long to keep COVID-19 out of their tiny susceptible communities and so many were nervous about the prospect of having several people, some from all over the world, come through their villages. Some cases would have required mushers to spend hours or even overnight at village checkpoints.
So the Iditarod was changed to accommodate these concerns. The Last Great Race on Earth, was still on! They changed the course of the Iditarod to circumvent most villages and it became an out-and-back course. There were no crowds this time (fans were encouraged to view the race via an online live stream) and the race started in Willow, went to the abandoned village of Iditarod, and came right back on the same path. It was also shortened to just over 800 miles.
On March 15, 2021 at 5:08 a.m., Dallas Seavey and his team of 10 dogs crossed the finish line in Willow, Alaska and won the Iditarod with a time of 7 days, 14 hours, 8 minutes and 57 seconds.
Photo credit: Marc Lester / ADN via Reuters