Saturday, March 3, 2012


Portions originally posted 2 years ago.

The Iditarod starts today. Or Tomorrow. Depending on how you look at it.

The race has a ceremonial start in Anchorage today. Mushers and "Iditariders" go 11 miles through downtown Anchorage and out into the woods on ski and bike trails.

About 15,000 people come out to watch the mushers live. It's packed shoulder to shoulder downtown, but if you move 10 blocks away the crowds are much more spread out. And if you go into the woods where the bike trails are and the locals hand out cookies, hot dogs, and pastries, you can go a few hundred yards in between clumps of fans.

There's a lot you might not be to know watching the event on TV. The first thing is the total will and concentration of the dogs -- their controlled bursts of energy and the quiet intensity of their breathing.

The second is the complete and total joy of the mushers. (As much as this comes through on TV, it's a million times more intense to see it live.)

The third thing is how happy the crowds are. Yes, this is a weird event with its own customs and rituals, but it's also an event that fans can feel is theirs. Mushers mingle with fans freely in a way that's unimaginable for the top competitors in any of the larger professional sports.

Today is just for fun.

No one keeps track of today's times because they don't really count.

The real race begins tomorrow in Willow (about 70 miles away) and the winner will likely arrive in Nome 9 or 10 days later.

It's hard and it's cold and it's long. And the people and dogs who run this race are amazing and disciplined and tough.

And inspiring.

Which reminds me of this.

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