The Iditarod: The Last Great Race


A musher in the iditarod
Travis S, via Flickr

Would you want to race through snow? Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma look at the famous Iditarod race, through the snow.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Some people say it is “the last great race”. It takes up to two weeks to finish it. It is a test of human and animal. It is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Today’s Spotlight is on this race. This is the story of how it began.

Voice 2 

It was January, 1925. There was a problem in the city of Nome, Alaska, in the United Sates. Children there were sick. They had diphtheria. This disease is often deadly. And it is very easy to get. Doctor Curtis Welch was the only doctor in this area. He knew he needed medicine very quickly. There were about 10,000 people in the area. Without the medicine, it was very likely that most children and adults in the community would die.

Voice 1 

Temperatures in Alaska can be as low as 51 degrees below zero. Travel can be extremely difficult in this weather. In 1925, no car or truck could drive over the snowy land. And the main sea port to Nome was closed for the season. Doctor Welch sent an emergency message to cities around the state of Alaska. He asked for the medicine he needed. The city of Anchorage had the medicine. But it was over 1000 kilometers away. The medicine could travel part of the way by train. But what about the rest of the way? Officials decided to send the medicine to Nome by dog sled. These teams of dogs could pull loads over places where trucks and cars could not go.

Voice 2 

A group of dogs pulled the medicine on a sled. A driver, or musher, guided them. They followed an old Alaskan path through the state. At the next town, this dog sled team passed the medicine to another team. Over 20 teams took part. The weather was terrible. It was snowing so hard the men could not see in front of them. And temperatures were below negative 31 degrees Celsius.

Voice 1 

Five and a half days later, the medicine reached the city of Nome. The mushers and their dog teams were heroes. The city of Nome was saved. Newspapers around the country told this story. The President of the United States wrote letters to thank the men and dogs who took part in the delivery.

Voice 2 

Almost 50 years later, this story inspired a sled dog race. In March of 1973, three men organized the first modern Iditarod race. Mushers and their dog teams began in the city of Anchorage. The end of the race was in Nome. It took 20 days for the winner to mush from Anchorage to Nome.  The race honoured the mushers and dogs who worked together to bring the medicine to the children of Nome. Since then, the Iditarod race happens every year. It is the longest dog sled race in the world.

Voice 1 

Every Iditarod race follows the same path across Alaska - the old Iditarod Trail. The trail is a series of very old paths. Experts believe that ancient native people used these paths for hunting. Today, the trail is recognized as an important part of history.

Voice 2 

The Iditarod trail is not an easy path to travel. There are mountains, valleys, and lots of snow and ice. The trail splits in the middle to go around a group of mountains. In some years the Iditarod race begins in the city of Seward and follows the south trail around the mountains. And other years the race begins in Anchorage and follows the north trail. But the race always ends in Nome. The race is about 1800 kilometres long. It takes between eight and 20 days to complete.

Voice 1 

Men and women who enter the Iditarod are called mushers.  They travel on a sled over the snow. Dogs pull the sled.  Mushers come from all over the world. Some come from as far away as Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland.  And some come from other parts of the United States.

Voice 2 

Mushers must be well-prepared for any condition. There are 26 or 27 cities along the Iditarod trail where mushers must stop. These are called checkpoints. Before the musher even starts the race he must send supplies and food for the dogs to each checkpoint. Mushers are also required to stop travelling three times during the race. This gives the tired dogs time to rest and become warm.

Voice 1 

Dogs are an important part of the Iditarod. The most common kind of dog used in sled racing is the Siberian Husky. This dog is fast, friendly, and has strong feet. Sled dogs have great pulling power. A racing dog can easily pull something that weighs three times more than it does! And these dogs can live in very cold temperatures. Mushers take very good care of their dogs.

Voice 2 

At each checkpoint an animal doctor looks at every dog to make sure it is healthy. The rules of the Iditarod are very clear. No dog should be harmed during the race. If a dog is sick or tired, it can stay at the checkpoint and rest.  This is called “dropping a dog.”  After the race the musher will take the dog back home. Each musher can start the race with 12 to 16 dogs. He or she must finish the race with at least six dogs.

Voice 1 

Every year, about 50 mushers and dog teams begin the Iditarod race. But not all of them finish it. The race is extremely difficult. But, for many mushers, finishing the race is worth all the difficult work! Winning mushers do win money. But many do not run the race to win the money - they do it for other reasons. Don Bowers raced in the Iditarod. People often asked him if he had fun running the race. This is what he wrote to them on the Iditarod website.

Voice 3 

“Sometimes during a race I wonder if I am having fun. But after it is over there is no question. It was fun and more than worth all the work. Actually, there is plenty of time to enjoy everything out on the trail. Most mushers race mainly because they enjoy being out with their dogs. Travelling by dog sled is a very special way to travel. That is because the dogs are actually your best friends.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called ‘The Iditarod: The Last Great Race’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Would you want to race through snow?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
ptquan
said on May 20, 2013

This is a great idea to take care medicines to city with very cold temperature. Thank you spotlight for a new knowledge !

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nhan_npvc
said on May 20, 2013

Dogs are best friends for people all over the world. Sadly, in South-East Asia people are using dog meat as food. Many drinkers enjoy dog meat such as indispensable favorite food in drunken orgy. Lawmakers should promulgate decrees to ban to eat the dog meat.
Thanks for shared the story!.

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Haes
said on May 20, 2013

This is a very interesting story.

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oleksandrk
said on August 08, 2014

Thank you for this story.)

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Katia
said on August 18, 2014

Thank you very much!!! This is very interesting story!

JoaoVBR's avatar
JoaoVBR
said on April 07, 2015

Incredible story! It is good to know that those people involved in the race take so much care with the dogs. Just few people can enjoy a snow race. I would like to take part in one. It should be a interesting experience.

hellokitty's avatar
hellokitty
said on April 08, 2015

Thanks for this story! It’s very interesting story

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Sparrow koo
said on April 18, 2015

Hi. Thanks to interesting story!

I want to tell about South-East Aisa eating habits.
Historically dog meat is a source of major protein to poor South-East Aisa people.
So they have been eating dog meat until today.
Today for them, dog meat is not much diffrent like pork, beef, chicken, etc.
Dog meat is just one of taste. and it is just South-East Aisa’s culture.
I think every country’s culture and custom must be respected. Except cannibalism and murder.
I think we should thanks for dog, pig, cow, Chicken, fish, vegetable, etc. (everything that we can eat.)

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Sparrow koo
said on April 18, 2015

To nhan_npvc

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msluan
said on March 02, 2017

This real story is a miracle! The musher and his team dog are heroes when they saved the whole city.
In the modern Iditarod race is amazing! It’s a long race. A part of people entered the race not for money, this was a change to travel by sled and discover themself.