Iditarod mushers begin dog-sled trip across Alaskan tundra
The nearly 1,000-mile 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 (80 km) 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.
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.
"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.
There are mandated rest stops along the way.
"From a race fan's standpoint, somebody who is really dialed into the competition, I expect it to be a thriller," said Stan Hooley, the race's executive director.
The winner usually crosses the finish line to a hero's welcome in slightly over nine days. Officials hold out until the last team crosses, which could be another week after the winner arrives in Nome.
This year, the winner will receive $50,400 and a new truck, while other top finishers will take home cash prizes from the race purse, which exceeds $650,000.
Six mushers in this year's competition have won an Iditarod and a quarter of the participants are rookies.
Norwegian musher Robert Sorlie, 56, is also one of the pre-race favorites, having competed in four Iditarods and won twice.
Sorlie returns to Alaska after being away from the race since 2007.