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Climate Change Is Making Alaska’s Legendary Iditarod Harder to Run


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This story originally appeared on High Country News and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Mike Williams Jr. doesn’t remember when he started mushing, but once he was strong enough to handle the sled dogs, it became his passion. At first, he mushed after school, taking his father’s dogs on 3- and 4-mile trails near his home in Akiak, Alaska. He ran the Iditarod for the first time in 2010 and has competed seven times since.

The Iditarod is Alaska’s best-known sporting event. Sled dogs and their mushers travel the roughly thousand-mile trail from Anchorage to Nome each year in March to commemorate the 1925 serum run, when a relay of 20 dogsled teams delivered life-saving medication to Nome to halt a diphtheria outbreak. The route is only passable in winter, when the rivers and lakes have frozen over. But the trail has become trickier in the past two decades as the region has warmed, making trail conditions less reliable. The 51st annual running of the Iditarod starts on March 4, but this year there are fewer teams than usual. In the past, there were sometimes as many as…

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