Thomas Waerner, seen here at the Iditarod restart in Willow, won the 2020 Iditarod.

WASILLA —Fifty-seven mushers signed up for the 2021 Iditarod, up over 40 percent than the previous run, according to a recent press release.

Mushers signed up virtually this year due to social distancing efforts and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To help mitigate the economic impact from reduced summer tourism, Iditarod officials reduced entry fees, and created the Pike Dogs First Wellness Initiative to provide funding for veterinary expenses, which was made possible by a donation from David Pike.

“Although there continues to be a struggle with a global pandemic, economic hardships and social unrest, the Iditarod is the embodiment of resolve and continues to anticipate change while still doubling down on the integrity, spirit and self-reliance of the race. With considerably more mushers entered at sign up day than last year we hope that we can provide unifying inspiration,” Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach stated in the press release.

Iditarod organizers have been preparing for the 2021 race since the end of the 2020 run in March. Race Director, Mark Nordman explained the 2021 race progress in the press release, stating, “Even before there was a single COVID-19 case in Alaska and before the start of the 2020 Iditarod, the ITC proactively engaged with Alaska’s health care leaders, state government officials, and rural community leaders in contingency planning. With an emerging COVID-19 pandemic, our primary goals were to protect our rural community checkpoints, and all involved in the race, including rural residents, mushers, and volunteers. We overcame a number of logistical challenges and we were fortunate enough to finish the race in Nome.”

Nordman also stated, “Today, we are focused on executing the 2021 race with hypersensitivity to the pandemic. We are expanding our plan development to include those we consulted with during the 2020 race, as well as a broader community of state and rural health safety responders. In an effort to ensure the safest path through this pandemic for the Last Great Race we are modeling three tiers of contingencies that correspond to a range of future COVID status predictions. There are many factors to consider, and we will make our best effort to provide the safest event possible in this changing environment.”

Today’s entrants include 15 rookies. Most of the teams are from Alaska but there’s a variety of Lower 48 mushers from the Lower 48 and an array of international mushers.

Current Iditarod champion Thomas Waerner, four-time champions Martin Buser, Jeff King, and Dallas Seavey, along with 2019 champion Pete Kaiser, and 2018 Iditarod champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom are part of this year’s line up.

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Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at

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