Telling Togo’s Tale: Aliy Zirkle

Aliy Zirkle
Aliy Zirkle

Aliy Zirkle, in one of the more dramatic endings in Iditarod history, came in second, only minutes behind the winner. As Quito, Aliy’s lead dog, raced toward the finish line exuding confidence and speed, it’s hard not to picture Togo in a similar scene nearly 100 years ago. Just as there is the “go” in Togo, there is “no quit” in Quito, and both of these dogs are to be admired for their work and determination.

A true Alaskan and dog-lover at heart, Aliy has now raced and finished the Iditarod 13 times, with her best finishes coming in 2012 and 2013, where she placed second both times. Although she is “in it to win it,” Aliy’s philosophy about being a musher is driven by passion – her dogs. These dogs are also on a mission and possess an inner-drive that only Aliy is capable of unleashing.

In 2011, Aliy was awarded the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award, an award designated for those mushers who finish in the top 20 in the field, and show excellence in taking care of their dogs. This award speaks volumes to Aliy’s character, as she truly believes in giving her dogs all they need for a trailblazing win.

It has been said that in Alaska, “Men are men, (but) women win the Iditarod!” Perhaps the next woman to add her name to the history books, alongside Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher, will be Aliy Zirkle in 2014!


-Haritha Krishnarathnam





The Iditarod was inspired by the 1925 Race for Mercy or Serum Run, during which life-saving diphtheria serum was delivered to Nome via sled dog teams. All of the dogs were amazing, including the most famous, Balto. But it was Leonhard Seppala and a 12-year old, undersized husky, named Togo, who led a team five times further than any other sled dog team over treacherous, unchartered territory. Without Togo, the villagers of Nome would likely have perished. This blog post is part of TogoRun’s campaign to tell Togo’s untold story.