Iditarod Minus The Dogs Not For Faint Of Heart

Ever wanted to run the Iditarod course, but aren’t a Buddhist and don’t think you’ll ever be reincarnated as a Siberian Husky? Then the Iditarod Trail Invitational is for you. It’s 1100 miles of ice and snow, and the competitors are running it without the sled dogs.


(And this is the winner.)

In nine years of racing, only 30 people have completed the course, with last year’s winning time a shade over 18 days. Competitors generally run the course, though they are allowed to ski or bike it, which, according to my fat ass, doesn’t make it any less manly. It costs $900 to enter, with first prize being free entry to next year’s race. There is no second prize.

Unlike a marathon, in which there are thousands of supportive fans and all the Gatorade you can drink, Iditarod entrants receive only three food drops along the course. They’ve got to haul all their own gear, and the injuries might be a little worse than a pulled hamstring:

“The key to being safe if it’s really cold or the wind is blowing really bad,” [race creator and sadist Bill] Merchant said, “is having everything packed in a logical order, where you can find everything in the order you need it. It’s not just an inconvenience out here to not be able to find your stuff. It can cause you to lose fingers.”

So it’s not really surprising that only seven people have registered for this year’s race, to be run in March, a week ahead of the usual doggie Iditarod. So what’s the point?

“After I did it the first time it turned into almost an obsession, one of those things you think about year-round,” said Peter Basinger, 28, who won the Iditarod Trail Invitational last year. Speaking by telephone from his home in Land O’ Lakes, Wis., Basinger added: “People need to come into it knowing that it’s unlike anything else, in that you really could get hurt out there. You really are on your own.”