2013 Iditarod Winner Mitch Seavey and his Team of Dogs

Iditarod Start
Iditarod Start | Source

In an effort to stay somewhat off of the beaten path with my Athlete of the Month selections, for March I headed north to the great state of Alaska. As many of you may know, Alaska is the site of the annual Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race, considered to be the “Last Great Race on Earth”. This annual competition pits man and dog against the toughest foe of all, Mother Nature, and the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness on the historic Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to Nome.

This year’s winner was veteran Mitch Seavey who mushed his way to his second Iditarod title. Mitch and his team of sled dogs are our athletes of the month for March for their extraordinary effort in winning the 2013 Iditarod. With the win, Mitch Seavey, at age 53, became the oldest ever winner of the race with his first victory coming back in 2004. Last year, Mitch’s son Dallas won the event to become the youngest ever winner of the race. The Seavey family now owns the distinction of having both the oldest and youngest ever winners of the Iditarod.

2013 Iditarod Results - Top 5 Finishers

Mitch Seavey
Aliy Zirkle
Jeff King
Dallas Seavey
Ray Reddington Jr.

Mitch Seavey and his Team

Mitch Seavey and his Team
Mitch Seavey and his Team | Source

Although the history of the Iditarod goes back to its inception in 1973, the race can trace its roots back to the early 1900’s when the sport of mushing was quite popular. Perhaps the most famous dog mushing event in Alaskan history took place during the winter of 1925 when a diphtheria epidemic threatened the small community of Nome, Alaska. With no airplanes available to deliver the serum the Governor of Alaska ordered the medicine to be delivered by teams of dog mushers. The serum was shipped by train to Nenana, Alaska and then delivered the remaining 674 miles to Nome by twenty teams of mushers who ran in a relay around the clock to deliver the serum in just five and a half days.


Known as the “Great Race of Mercy”, the mushers, and of course their dogs were hailed as heroes. Many of you may be familiar with the famous statue of the dog Balto that stands in New York City’s Central Park. Balto was the lead dog on Gunnar Kaasen’s sled team that took the serum on the last leg of its journey into the streets of Nome. Although Kaasen and Balto became celebrities because of their efforts, many consider Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog Togo as the true heroes of the effort. Seppala’s team actually covered the longest (91 miles) and most difficult stretch of the route.

For those of you who may venture to the great state of Alaska there is a wonderful museum in Wasilla, Alaska that is dedicated to the Iditarod and amazing story of the Great Mercy Run to Nome. The museum offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of the event, watch some amazing video, meet some of the sled dogs, and take a short ride with them on the trail. The Iditarod Trail Race Headquarters and Museum makes for a great stop for those of you traveling from Anchorage up to Denali National Park or Fairbanks.

Iditarod Trail Race Headquarters and Museum


And if you happen to be in Alaska come early March you can catch a glimpse of the race, which has a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage before moving north to Willow for the official race start. From Willow the race takes teams through the Rainy Pass in the heart of the Alaska Range and through the remote interior of the state before hitting the shores of the Bering Sea, and then on into Nome.

The official length of the race is listed as 1049 miles but it can vary depending on whether they use the northern or southern route through the interior. Each entry consists of the musher and a team of twelve to sixteen dogs of which at least six dogs must be pulling the sled at the finish.

Iditarod Trail Start


For the Seavey family the 2013 Iditarod was a great year as Dallas Seavey, the son of winner Mitch Seavey came in a strong fourth place. Dallas actually won the 2012 running of the Iditarod. For the Seavey family mushing is pretty much in their blood as three generations have now competed in the event. Dan Seavey, the father of Mitch and grandfather to Dallas actually competed in the first two Iditarod’s that took place back in 1973 and 1974.

Inside the Iditarod by Dallas Seavey


Mitch Seavey was born in Minnesota but grew up in Seward, Alaska after the family moved north. He and his wife, Janine, and their four sons, operate the Ididaride Sled Dog Tours in Seward where visitors can take a sled dog ride, meet the dogs, see demonstrations, enjoy the Alaskan wilderness, and meet the Seavey’s.

While Mitch Seavey certainly deserves credit for his amazing win at the Iditarod I would certainly be remiss if I didn't give credit to the real stars, his amazing team of dogs and especially to his two lead dogs, Taurus and Tanner. These star athletes continue to amaze me with their stamina, strength, and love of racing.

The Real Athletes

The real athletes
The real athletes | Source

While the Iditarod is certainly a part of the Alaskan way of life, the race and the sport in general is not without its detractors. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s) has strongly denounced the Iditarod and considers the race as abusive to the dogs. The unfortunate death of one of the sled dogs during the 2013 race only further compounded the growing frustration that PETA has with the Iditarod.

I love this photo!


To the credit of the race organizers, they do go to great lengths to ensure that the utmost care is given to the health of the dogs. The link here gives an outline of the criteria that is used to evaluate the dogs both before and during the race. The bottom line is that a team of over 40 veterinarians is on hand during the event and they have the authority to drop a dog from the race if he is injured or they feel he should not continue on in the race.

You have to remember that these dogs, all mixed-breed Huskies, are highly conditioned athletes. It’s just like someone training to run a marathon in that it often takes years of conditioning to be a top marathoner. The dogs in the Iditarod have at least two years of training and competing before taking on the Iditarod. One must also consider the fact that running is in the genes of these magnificent creatures. Anyone who has witnessed a team pulling a sled knows that they are in their element when they are running.

While this sport may be unfamiliar to many of us who live outside of Alaska, it is a way of life in the 49th state. The National Park Service up in Denali National Park actually uses teams of sled dogs to patrol the park during the winter months when the roads are closed and this is a fairly common site in Alaska, especially during the winter and in the more remote areas. I hope you enjoyed this look at the Seavey family and the “Last Great Race on Earth”, the Iditarod.

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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Comments 17 comments

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Suhail. What a fascinating comment. I think I enjoyed reading your comment more that the Hub :) Certainly sounds like you have an intimate knowledge of sled racing. And of course I am very familiar with Rick Steves, didn't know he had a sister involved with sled racing? Our son was stationed in Alaska at Elmendorf AFB for a number of years and we had the opportunity to visit him in Alaska. I can't wait to return some day.

Thanks so much for the wonderful comments, really enjoyed reading this. Have a great weekend.

Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

I don't know why I missed reading this hub. I was perhaps still outdoors enjoying my late winter-early spring hikes with K2.

I follow both the Yukon Quest (I donate money for that race as well) and the Iditarod live on the net. I followed 2012 race because of Hank Debruin of Ontario, who was unable to complete in 2010 amid lot of administrative controversy when he was asked to scratch off unceremoniously due slow speed. He completed 2011 Yukon Quest and came back to Iditarod in 2012. Many of us from Ontario were supporting him. He, along with one another participant - Karen Ramstead - run Siberian Huskies, rather than Alaskan Huskies (another name of all long running cross-breed furry friends). Sibes are slower and therefore, unable to compete with Alaskans. Karen and Hank race together for long distances to keep each other a company.

I also closely follow Jan Steves, sister of Rick Steves, a well known traveller and writer of travel guidebooks.

And my favorite is Aliy Zirkle and I have been cheering for her to win the Iditarod for last 2 years now, but as you mentioned, the Seavey Father and son got better of her. Btw, her husband won the Youkon Quest this year.

At one time I was planning to participate in the race myself, using my funds, but someone else's dogs, but I think I am past my heydays. In future, I would like to fund a musher who is willing to take Canadian Eskimo Dogs (CEDs) to the race.

Thank you very much for sharing this great race.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Thanks Mary. A little something different for a few months here. I've grown weary of all the bad news on the sports "stars" of the world. Thes guys and dogs are just incredibel athletes but no one really knows much about them.

Thanks for the support, vote, etc. Have a great day.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Great choice! The funny thing is we were just talking about the Iditarod and how you don't hear much about it any more and voila, your hub. We saw information about it in Seward when we visited Alaska but we were there in late May. I love the pictures you chose and appreciate your background info!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

No problem. :)

TheLibertyCell profile image

TheLibertyCell 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

Whoops, wrong Hub!

TheLibertyCell profile image

TheLibertyCell 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

Amen! My two white miniature Schnauzers are perky and personable. Thanks also for noting that pancreatis and diabetes are expensive potential probllems. I have almost lost one of my darlings to both diseases.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Dr. Mark. Thank you for adding your 2 cents. I appreciate your informed and educated comment. As a lover of all animals and especially dogs I would never support something that is abusive to our four legged friends. While I am certainly not an expert on sled dog racing or the husky breed, everyone we talked to while in Alaska including the National Park Service people who care for the dogs that work in Denali NP told us that they love to run, want to run, and that it's part of their genetic makeup. Thanks again.

DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

Hi Carmel I know this probably wont change your opinion but I did want to make a comment about your comment. This goes back to a quality of life issue, similar to that you mentioned with Bob Bamberg.

Siberian Huskies locked up in urban environments are really sad and have a lot of behavioral vices because of boredom. When they race they really have fun. I remember when I used to run my dogs, you never had to say 'mush'. All you had to do was let the brake off of your sled and they ran as long as they could. They are althletes and really love it.

Yes, I do believe they would want to run the race, if they could. It is a pity we cannot ask them, or are too ignorant to understand their answer.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Highland Terrier. I certainly respect your opinion and as the owner of a small Shih Tzu I certainly would not expect that breed, or any small breed of dog including a Westie, to be competing in a sled race. The dogs that run in the Iditarod are a different breed, they are breed to run, and are much more adept at this sort of long distance running. I too am concerned that it might be too much for them but I have been to Alaska and have seen the sled dogs running and I can tell you that they certainly seem to love it. Also, they are trained for this like any other athlete. As far as eating dogs, I'm not sure where that came from. Certainly I have never, nor would I. No one I know would ever. Our Shih Tzu is a part of our family and is treated like a queen. Thanks for the comments.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Thanks Bill. Time to contemplate how to respond to the next comment. Have a nice Easter weekend.

Highland Terrier profile image

Highland Terrier 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

As far as I have heard dogs are natures sprinters not marathon runners. I also believe that prolonged running damages a dogs heart.

My westie loves running and gets great enjoyment from it but I do think asking him to do more than charge around playing would be just plain selfish.

Do you seriously believe that given a choice the dogs would run this race, nine to ten days, really?

We get to chose if we want to run or not ,the dogs obviously don't.

No this race is all about the humans and only the humans needs, the dogs are just the poor animals being force to make the humans feel good about themselves.

It is really bad enough that we eat them, we really do not need to use them for sport or entertainment.

And this race is just a step too far.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

It would be real hard to argue against your choice. If there is a more brutal competition I don't know what it would be. Great article, Bill!

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Dr. Mark. Glad you enjoyed this one. I thought you more than anyone would appreciate what great athletes these sled dogs are. I find them just amazing. They do look happy in the photos. I sometimes worry that an event like this might be too much for them but they are trained just like a marathoner would. Many thanks for the vote , share, etc..

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Carol. This is quite different from the sports we normally hear about but up in Alaska it's a very big deal. It was great to see someone over 50 win and these dogs are simply amazing athletes also. Thanks for the vote, share, and have a great weekend.

DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

53, and an amazing athlete. And those dogs sure do look happy.

Voted up and shared. I really enjoyed reading this.

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Good job..This is quite a sport and these guys have to be really fit to take part. Makes me tired to look at it. Voting up and sharing.

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