The world's toughest dog sled race has begun – and Covid will make it even tougher!

Anchorage, Alaska - In Alaska, the toughest dog sled race in the world began on Sunday under difficult pandemic conditions.

The Iditarod is around 140 miles shorter this year due to pandemic restrictions.
The Iditarod is around 140 miles shorter this year due to pandemic restrictions.  © IMAGO / Design Pics

This year, the Iditarod will not follow a trail from Anchorage, the largest city in the state, to Nome on the Bering Sea, as is usually the case. Instead, the 46 teams will turn around at the halfway point and glide back to Anchorage.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, participants will not be registering at checkpoints in villages along the route as they usually do, but rather will be staying in tents outside the settlements.

In addition, all participants and their teams will be tested multiple times, organizers announced.

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The first of the several dozen participating teams usually reach their destination after about nine days.

Instead of around 1,000 miles, the route this year is only about 860 miles long.

Drama at the 2020 Iditarod: winner couldn't return home for months due to coronavirus!

Participants' in this year's Iditarod have to stay overnight outside the villages.
Participants' in this year's Iditarod have to stay overnight outside the villages.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The pandemic had an impact on the 2020 race as well: Norwegian winner Thomas Waerner was unable to return to his homeland until early June. After his victory in mid-March, he wasn't allowed to make the trip due to travel restrictions. He will not be competing again this year.

The Iditarod was founded in 1973 and takes its name from a river and now abandoned village in western Alaska.

The race commemorates a dog sled expedition in 1925 that brought vaccines to Nome to fight a diphtheria outbreak. The story was the basis for the 1995 Disney animated movie Balto.

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The Iditarod Trail was also used to transport goods and mail in the 20th century.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Design Pics

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