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Scratching a Niche: Iditarod edition

Posted by: Michael Rand under Sports Updated: March 17, 2011 - 1:59 PM

Commenter Newbie does his thing every week, writing about all the sports that we don't cover. Newbie?

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Hey, Are There any Sports that Feature a Bunch of Dogs Running Around Alaska? Iditarod Edition

Let's face it, I don't think this is going to be a recurring segment.

If you aren't familiar, the Iditarod is roughly a 1,112 mile sled-dog race from Anchorage to Nome.  It consists of 60+ race teams with thousands of dogs.  It starts in early March and runs for about 10 days before the winner crosses, but can take up to a month or more for some to finish.  

I have never been to Alaska, but I have seen 8 Mile.  You'd have to watch that movie 139 times to equate the distance traveled, and that would take 10 and a half days of your life.  Which is two days longer than it took the winner of this year's race to travel the actual distance and break a record.  I'm pretty sure I would rather take my chances in the wilderness than watch that movie even once again, and the only dog I have is a blind Maltese.  Combine that with Rand's pug and I'm pretty sure I would be dead before I got past the starting gate.  With my dog running into a snow bank and Petunia going after the first mitten she sees.

I have three lists of sporting events I want to see before I die, the "Must See" list.  These are events that would offer a rare opportunity to be part of something special that won't come around often (a Vikings Super Bowl, a Twins World Series, a Timberwolves regular season victory).  Then there is the "Would like to see" list. These are events that happen regularly that would just be cool to be a part of once (The Masters, Daytona/Indy 500, Kentucky Derby).  Finally the "If the opportunity presents itself" list.  Those are events I would ordinarily have to make a serious effort to plan (Iditarod, Australian Open, the Olympics).  The Iditarod is at the bottom of that third list.  I'm sure I will get to Alaska some day, but I doubt it will be for or during this race, and that will probably be ok.  I think what I would enjoy more would be to sit down with a couple grizzled veterans of the race over a couple beers just to hear, what are no doubt, some tremendous stories of the time spent out there.  Most of the course is in an area that contains no roads.  Sure planes can bring in supplies and people, but for the most part sleds and snowmobiles are the main form of transportation.  So, I can picture sitting in a dimly lit "Outstate Bar" hearing story after story about battling temperatures and winds that would make even the heartiest of Minnesotans blush, and scenes of perfect beauty even James Cameron couldn't recapture.   

Untrue, Unresearched, and Possibly Incendiary Slurs Against Various Niche Sports

The race started with 62 'Mushers' and so far 14 have dropped out.  Near as I can tell from this list and no other source, most of them dropped out because they got scratched.  Most likely from a tree or possibly a dog.  I had always considered this a sport for really tough men and women.  I guess I was wrong.  That kind of thing may fly in horse racing, but not for humans.  Rub some snow on it and get back out there. [Proprietor note: We think newbie might be purposely misunderstanding what scratched means, but we'll let it slide].

Based on his penchant for running, love of bacon, and he lives in Minnesota, my hunch is commenter 'roughkat' was a sled dog in a current life, or will be in a future one. 

I imagine it would not go over to well at the Iditarod to wish someone good luck at the start, meet them at the end as they are freezing, hungry and exhausted and say, "you know there's a plane that brings you straight here in like an hour, right?"  Nor would that work after a marathon.
 
There are many that say it is a cruel race and the dogs are abused and mistreated.  I say, what happens if another disease strikes Nome, Alaska and all the planes have been destroyed by the aliens, and the only way to get a vaccine is by dog-sled, but it needs to get there in under 10 days. Well my friend.  That is what they are training for.  Ready they will be, and won't you look foolish for thinking otherwise.  
 
Oh, and the Iditarod is on Twitter, Stu.
 
Your thoughts or comments on the Iditarod, roughkat's other lives, or alien attacks forcing dog-sled as the only viable transportation option are welcome in the comments below.
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