The 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicked off Sunday, featuring some former champions who are attempting to regain the crown as well as new talent.
The 42nd annual race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, features 69 mushers, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Nearly one-fourth of competitors are rookies. While most competitors live in Alaska, there are a number of international competitors, from Norway, Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Sweden.
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As of Monday morning, former National Guard member Kelly Maixner, 38, a North Dakota native, is leading the race. The Anchorage Daily News reported it appears Maixner is heading to Rohn and attempting to become just the second musher to reach the northern side of the Alaska Range without any rest. Last year, Martin Buser, who is competing again this year and is not far behind Maixner this year, was the first to accomplish that feat.
Race enthusiasts will likely keep up with the father-son team Mitch and Dallas Seavey. Mitch Seavey, 54, is the defending Iditarod champion, while Dallas Seavey won the title in 2012.
Mitch Seavey will be competing in the Iditarod for the 20th time, according to Reuters.
He said his father participated in the very first race.
"I love the lifestyle," Seavey told Reuters. "Being able to raise four boys as mushers has made it very rewarding."
Iditarod enthusiasts will also be watching the return of Robert Sorlie. Sorlie has participated in four Iditarods since his first appearance in 2002, winning two of them for a .500 winner average. Then there is current Norwegian long-distance sled champion Ralph Johannessen, who is racing in his first Iditarod.
Buser took a shorter rest, which placed him among the leaders early on.
"Last year they all pooh-poohed me and bad mouthed me for doing something like that, but I got a nice tribute during the banquet ... some of the competitors spoke highly of the potential of a move like that," Buser told the Anchorage Daily News.
The Iditarod is done in stages ranging from 18 miles to 85 miles northwest past 21 Alaskan villages to Nome.
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