Photos by Marc Heft. Video by Theresa Rotunno
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.
The 41st Iditarod has drawn to a close.
The residents of Nome return to their daily routines, the snow and wind erase the tracks of the 66 sled dog teams who traveled over 1,000 miles.
But perhaps the most telling sign the Iditarod has ended is the extinguished “widow’s lamp.”
The widow’s lamp—hung atop the finishing line—burns red throughout the race symbolically helping mushers reach Nome, but it is not extinguished until the last musher “returns” safely.
The untold story behind this lamp dates back to the 1800’s/early 1900’s Alaskan history. Alaskan mail and freight mushers would light the lamp outside checkpoints to help guide those who were out in the wilderness and it would not be extinguished until the musher successfully returned to the checkpoint—hence the reason the lamp burns during the whole of the Iditarod. Continue reading
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. Continue reading