The world’s most famous sled dog race started Monday with 71 mushers setting off from the heart of Alaska and embarking on a nearly 1,000-mile trek across the wilderness.
The grandson of a co-founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was the first competitor on the trail.
Ryan Redington, 33, of Wasilla led the other mushers out of the chute in Fairbanks nearly a half-century after his grandfather, Joe Redington Sr., helped stage the first race in 1973.
The contest has a staggered start so fans, including 2,600 schoolchildren, can cheer on the mushers, who leave every two minutes.
One race rookie, 53-year-old Roger Lee, threw his fist in the air as he took off from the chute.
Lee was born in California to British parents and grew up near Liverpool, England, listening to the Beatles and harder rock groups. He has seen AC/DC in concert 157 times in 16 countries, according to his race biography.
Lee spent 10 years with the British Army Air Corps before moving to America, where he serves with the Air Force. He took a one-year sabbatical to train for the Iditarod.
The fan-friendly ceremonial start of the race was held Saturday in Anchorage.
The competitive start is normally held a day later in Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. But that start would have taken mushers over the Dalzell Gorge, where a lack of snow has left alders exposed on the trail and open water in places that normally would be frozen this time of year.
Winter conditions were not a concern in Fairbanks, where the temperature was minus 35 degrees Monday morning. The start was delayed a day to give mushers times to drive their dogs 360 miles north to the city of about 100,000 in interior Alaska.
Eighty-four mushers signed up for the race, and 13 scratched. The latest was Otto Balogh, a 40-year-old rookie from Budapest, Hungary, who cited health concerns when dropping out of the race two hours before it began.
Dallas Seavey, 30, has won four out of the last five races. He feels no pressure to get a record-tying fifth win, and is fully cognizant that winning streaks can only go for so long.
“And I’m truly OK with that, as long as I can look back on the race and know I ran my team to the best of their ability, and we all had a good run,” Seavey said.