If you are sled dog it is apparently!
Today I FINALLY got to see a sprint dog race. I’ve been so curious about it. I’ve heard the sleds are different. I’ve heard the dogs were different. I was so excited to see it for myself!
This weekend in Anchorage is the big Fur Rendezvous or Fur Rondy Festival. This is the 78th year of the festival which began in 1935 as a way for the community to get together when the trappers came in from the bush with their winter’s haul. Nearly the entire population of Anchorage, 3,000 people came out to celebrate and have continued to do so ever since.
The Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship Sled Dog Race (how’s that for a title?) has been a part of the Fur Rondy since 1946. The “open” part of the title means that the mushers can determine how many dogs they want in their team each day. Today it seemed like mushers had between 10 and 14 dogs.
So is it really a sprint? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. The mushers and their teams run 25 miles each day for a total of 75 miles over the course of the 3 day race. The final standings are determined by the combined times of the three days. The race course is considered very challenging and different from most dog sled races because it is held in an urban environment. They race through the streets of Anchorage, over bridges and through tunnels.
The sleds are different because they don’t need to carry a lot of stuff! They don’t stop along the race course so they don’t need to carry food or gear. The dogs are bred to race faster for shorter distances. They can average speeds of nearly twenty miles per hour for ninety minutes! I thought a lot of them looked like they had some greyhound in them!
This year’s winner is Arleigh Reynolds from Salcha, Alaska. In addition to being a musher, Arleigh is a veterinarian and sport dog nutritionist. His research is helping both sprint and distance mushers learn more about how nutrition can impact dogs’ performance. He has finished second in this race twice before, but this is his first win!