Iditarod Central recently requested all official finishers to contribute a thumbnail of their experience. Submissions will be published as part of the Forty Years of Iditarod History celebration. I sent this:
By definition, “adventure” involves a bold undertaking featuring hazard, risk, and an unknown outcome. Beyond question the trailblazing race qualified far beyond any other as the most daring Iditarod adventure of all time. Thirty-four intrepid men rose to the irresistible challenge. Their headlong plunge into the unknown would test an incredible new concept in sled dog racing, a contest so novel and extravagant in all its facets that few believed something so audacious could be brought off.
The Iditarod had one unique chance and one only. It was, truly, in that very year of 1973, make or break, do or die. Would it ascend to heights of glorious success and international renown? Or would it go down to the grave in ignominious death, never to be heard from again? Not only out on the trail, but back at race headquarters (where major logistical failures were being dealt with on the fly and the failure to secure the promised prize money had organizers utterly panicked, as the racers were already in the Alaska Range) the race and its hoped-for tomorrows truly hung in the balance.
It was as if all of the event’s future racers, administrators, and fans, born and yet-to-be born, were sending us out as a recon team to not only scout the trail and pioneer the logistics, but to determine their own very fate. Would there be an Iditarod existence for the seven hundred mushers who have since crossed the Nome finish line? Would the millions of worldwide fans the race has since drawn have anything to draw them? Would there be future heroes and legends, vast commercial benefit to individuals and industries, a glowing addition to Alaska’s international image? The entire future—all that the Iditarod has been up to now, all the race is today, and all the fabulous spectacle will ever be—teetered more precariously than all but a handful of old 1973 insiders really understand.
Back in Anchorage, just in the nick of time and by a startling turn, Joe Redington gained his prize money. Out on the trail, everything the cruel weather and haphazard, seat-of-the-pants logistics could throw against us we and our valiant dogs met and conquered. Prerace indifference, disbelief, derision, and resistance were swept aside as the now-believing multitudes wildly cheered. Joe and his trailblazers had launched a new star, the Iditarod, to dazzling resplendence and a glorious future.
Rod Perry, Finisher #17, “The Musher on the Patch,” and author of TRAILBLAZERS Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod available from http://rodperry.com