In order to participate in Iditarod, a musher must be at least 18 years old and have qualified for the race by completing a series of mid-distance races. The Iditarod is a 1,000 mile long dog sled race. Learn more about it in our earlier post What Is the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
According to Rule #1 of the Official Iditarod Rules:
he/she must complete two (2) 300 mile qualifiers and another approved qualifier for a total of 750 miles to be qualified. The completion requirements are that a musher must finish either within the top 75% of the field or in an elapsed time of no more than twice the time of the winner.; and
he/she during such approved qualifying races demonstrated the necessary physical and mental aptitude and preparedness, as well as the necessary wilderness and mushing skills.
Why Must Mushers Qualify for the Iditarod
The goal of qualifying races is to ensure that all mushers know how to take care of themselves and their dogs. One thousand miles is a long way to travel and the entirety of the race is off of the Alaska Road system. Mushers and their dogs must be prepared to face any challenge.
On the path to qualifying, Rookie mushers generally learn a lot both from experience and from other mushers. Once a musher has successfully completed the Iditarod, they no longer need to qualify. One successful completion of the race is considered qualification for life.
Sarah used the Sheep Mountain 300, The Northern Lights 300, and the Tustumena 200 to qualify for Iditarod and is anxiously awaiting her chance to run.
During a musher’s Rookie Iditarod, they participate in a 2-day mandatory Rookie Meeting where rookie mushers learn about vet care, training their dogs, and what to expect during the race. Usually, well-established veterans such as Martin Buser, Dee Dee JonRowe and Aaron Burmeister make appearances and help answer questions.
When a musher completes his/her first Iditarod, he/she earns their Iditarod Belt Buckle, a one time piece of hardware that only official finishers of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race can sport.