This Saturday, March 2 the 47th Iditarod will begin. 52 mushers and their sled dog teams will run 1000 miles of rough terrain from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, contending with mountains, frozen rivers, sub-zero temperatures, and sleep deprivation. The route roughly follows historic mail routes from the early 20th century, when gold came out and mail and supplies went in via dog sled, and which in 1925 was crucial to supplying diphtheria antitoxin to Nome. If you enjoy following extreme or endurance sports, love working dogs, or just want to know more about the event history and types of people who run this race, check out these items.
The Cruelest Miles by Gay Salisbury
This is the full story of the serum run that gives the Iditarod its legendary route. In the winter of 1925, Nome was isolated and on the cusp of a deadly diphtheria outbreak, with a desperate need for antitoxin. Airplanes still couldn’t consistently handle cold temperatures, and nothing else could make it through. So the serum was taken by rail from Seattle as far as it could go, and then dog mushers transported it the final 650 miles over 5 days. If you’ve only ever heard of one sled dog, it’s likely Balto, the lead dog of the last team.
Iditapod produced by Alaska Public Media and KNOM
Now in its third year, the Iditapod is the premier podcast covering the Iditarod day-to-day. This season begins with a look back on the history of dog mushing in Alaska, how and why the Iditarod was started in 1973, and a review of the 2018 race. Once the Iditarod kicks off on March 2, they’ll do daily episodes with race analysis, audience questions, and interesting tidbits from along the trail.
Winterdance by Gary Paulsen
Best known for his children’s books, such as Hatchet, Paulsen has also long been an avid dogsledder. Here he recounts his efforts to train for the race, as well as his experience in his debut Iditarod in 1983. It’s a funny, determined adventure ride.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube
by Blair Braverman
Braverman will be running her rookie Iditarod this year. In this memoir from 2016 she describes how a girl from southern California got into dog sledding: from a year spent at a folk school in Norway learning to mush, to summers spent working in Alaska’s dog sled tourism industry, to starting her own team in Wisconsin. It’s as much about what it’s like to be a young woman in those traditionally male spaces as it is about getting into mushing.
For more all-ages books about the Iditarod and accounts from the dogsledders who have run it, check out this list in our catalog.