How much of the Iditarod race do the mushers spend running, rather than riding on the sled?

by Sleddoggin Staff on April 18, 2012

Question by Katey C: How much of the Iditarod race do the mushers spend running, rather than riding on the sled?

Obviously the mushers cannot spend the entire race riding that sled, as the dogs would get worn out more quickley.

On average how long do the mushers spend running during the Iditarod race?

Best answer:

Answer by dewclaw
There is no real answer as that is going to depend on the musher and the team.

Many mushers will run when the team is going slow enough up hill or in tough trail. But it really not that common for you to just hop off and run behind your sled. More common is for mushers to help propel the sled by either kick peddling with their legs, or using a ski pole as if they were cross country skiing.

There are a few good reasons why you don’t just run along. Most humans can’t keep up with a dog team. The gear needed to keep you warm is difficult to run in and would cause you to sweat a lot. Risk of loosing team. Trail conditions can be very very difficult for humans to run in. You would be amazed how much 15 pounds of arctic gear and some new snow will slow you down and tire you out. And mushers who are using the new sit style sled can’t run behind the sled easily so they need wide enough trail for them to run beside the sled.

Also remember that these dogs are conditioned all season to do these long runs, and they build up the speed and strength needed to accomplish the tasks. So they are prepared for the weight they will be pulling. Your opening statement “Obviously the mushers cannot spend the entire race riding that sled, as the dogs would get worn out more quickley.” is not true. Dogs can be conditioned to handle the weight over time, and thus the weight doesn’t tire them out. As long as the conditioning has been done well.

Many famous mushers although strong and athletic have not been what you would call aerobic athletes ie runners. (although that trend is changing fast as the sport becomes more competitive) One was quoted as saying, in response to the comment that many young mushers are peddling and using ski poles on distance races, “if I wanted to run I wouldn’t train dogs”

SO although I would say that long distance mushers are working to drive the sled and help the team all the time; they are rarely just running along down the trail with the team.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

Related posts:

  1. Meet The Mushers: The Iditarod Dog Sled Race
  2. First Person: 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
  3. Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Begins in Alaska
  4. How many mushers have died in the Iditarod?
  5. Charley Bejna and Iditarod Trail Kennel Team- Knik 200 Sled Dog Race 2012


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