Did you know the Iditarod was inspired by a historical event? In the old days, people used dog sled teams on the Iditarod Trail to get from Seward to Nome every winter. Airplanes were scarce and limited by weather and other conditions. In 1925, a diptheria epidemic hit Nome, and the only way to get the antitoxin to Nome was by dog sled. Understanding the urgency of the situation, several dog mushers worked quickly to relay the serum to Nome, 674 miles in only 127 and a half hours. All the mushers and dogs saved people’s lives, but many consider Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog Togo to be the greatest heroes since they ran the most miles. Our local Girl Scout council named their resident camp Togowoods in his honor.
Fast forward many years, and the dog sled was being replaced by motorized machines. Some people thought it was easier to run a snowmachine instead of maintaining and running dogs. In 1967, the Wasillia-Knik Centennial Committee was looking for ways to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of Alaska becoming part of the United States. Dorothy Page and Joe Redington Sr. created a sprint dog sled race including nine miles of the old Iditarod Trail. Joe kept working toward his dream of reviving dog mushing with a long-distance race, and in 1973 the first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was run.
Alaskan history has such fascinating stories. The Iditarod has several of them, from Leonhard Seppala to Joe Redington Sr. to the current winners. What is your favorite Iditarod story?