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“The 49th run of the Iditarod will be different this year.” That’s the sentiment of Rob Urbach, CEO of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

For many Alaskans, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race signifies the one year anniversary of the pandemic. Last year, the mushers all shook hands at the opening banquet and then returned to a world with no toilet paper on store shelves.

Traditionally, the Iditarod commemorates the 1925 Serum run, a sled dog relay that transported diphtheria antitoxin across Alaska. The serum saved the town of Nome and the surrounding communities from an epidemic.

According to Urbach, this year the Iditarod race is focusing on honoring the earlier mavericks of Alaska. Those who pioneered gold mining in the town of Flat. The Iditarod trail was originally constructed as a mail route, running from Seward to the town of Iditarod before pushing on to Nome. At the turn of the century, Iditarod, which served as a supply town for the nearby mining claims, sported a population of over 3,000 people. Mail was brought in to the miners using the Iditarod Trail, and gold was hauled out.

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