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Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is on the road to Nome

March 8, 2010 | 10:08 am

Three-time and reigning Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, left, visits with rookie Newton Marshall, of Jamaica, before the competitors left at the start in Willow, Alaska, on Sunday.

The 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicked off this weekend, with 71 mushers and their dog teams heading to Nome to vie for the championship.

With both Saturday's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and the official restart from Willow behind them, the teams will cover 1,112 miles using the Northern Route, as is done in even-numbered years.

Called the "last great race on Earth," each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover the distance in 10 to 17 days, with 25 checkpoints, including Anchorage and Nome, along the way.

Among the competitors is defending and three-time champion Lance Mackey, an Alaska native from Fairbanks, who is hoping to win his fourth Iditarod in a row, which would set a new record for consecutive wins.

Also back is Sebastian Schnuelle, of Whitehorse, Canada, who finished second last year; five-time winner Rick Swenson, a Two Rivers, Alaska, resident whose most recent win came in 1991;  and four-time winner Jeff King, from Denali, who has made it known that this is his last competitive year in the race.

A musher who has received much media attention recently is Newton Marshall, a 26-year-old rookie from Jamaica. While not likely a serious contender, Marshall did some training with Mackey leading up to this race and, most recently, became the first Jamaican ever to complete the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race, finishing 13th out of a field of 29 mushers in 2009.

Here's wishing all competitors -- both human and canine -- luck on their journey over the next few weeks. Hopefully all will arrive safely in Nome.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Three-time and reigning Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, left, visits with rookie Newton Marshall, of Jamaica, before the competitors leave at the start in Willow, Alaska, on Sunday. Credit: Associated Press / Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News

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