The sound of howling dogs filled downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 4, as mushers from around the world gathered for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
About 2,000 dogs belonging to 72 mushers waited their turn—some more patiently and less vocally than others—to hit the trail this year. The race spans nearly 1,000 miles of Alaska wilderness, including the last stretch when the teams battle the frozen Bering Sea coast en route to the finish line in the community of Nome.
The ceremonial start is a fan-friendly event designed to show off mushing to fans in Alaska’s largest city. Spectators pet the dogs, mingled with mushers, and even grabbed an autograph or two.
Racers then left the downtown area every two minutes in a staggered start with an Iditarider—people who won auctions for a prime spot on a competitor’s sled—for an 11-mile course on city trails and streets.