This is how much faster the Iditarod has become.
Dallas Seavey won his fourth Iditarod early Tuesday morning, beating a course record which he already held. The race is getting faster.
Consider these facts:
In 2004, Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod with a time of 9 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes. This year, he was a full day faster (8 days, 12 hours, 5 minutes)—and finished second.
In 2006, Jeff King won the Iditarod in 9 days, 11 hours, 11 minutes. This year, he beat that time by almost half a day (9 days, 0 hours)—and just barely made the top 10.
The Norwegian Robert Sorlie won the race in 2003 and 2005. His fastest time was 2003 at 9 days, 15 hours, 47 minutes. This year he posted a time of 9 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes—and finished in 13th place.
There are a lots of factors that affect race times—condition of trail, weather—but there’s no doubt the race is getting faster. Back in the early 2000s, when Norwegians like Sorlie began running the Iditarod, it was thought that their arrival heralded a new and faster way of running the race—longer runs, shorter rest.
Clearly, the Alaskans were paying attention. In the intervening decade they have continued the transformation of the race such that the Norwegians no longer clearly stand apart from the pack.
When I lived in Nome, I remember waiting up on Tuesday night into Wednesday for the finisher. This year people were waiting up Monday night into Tuesday for Dallas Seavey’s finish in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Who will be the first musher to finish the Iditarod on a Monday?
One final fact: since 1986, there have been more 4-time winners of the Iditarod (Butcher, Swenson, Buser, Swingley, King, Mackey, Seavey) than 1-time winners (John Baker, Joe Runyan).