German Sebastian Schnuelle, last year's runner-up, is currently second in the Iditarod XXXVIII, and was the first to make it to the Rohn checkpoint, arriving with all 16 dogs at 10:52 p.m. ET Monday night. Paul Gebhardt, the first out of Rohn, leaving at 12:32 a.m. ET early Tuesday morning, is the leader.
Rohn is a former site of a roadhouse for dog teams traveling with mail, some 272 miles from Anchorage, but still 840 miles away from the finish in Nome. Schnuelle spent almost five hours there resting, while Gebhardt stayed just 17 minutes before continuing on. While they rarely sleep and usually only stop to let the dogs rest, every musher must take one 24-hour rest and two eight-hour layovers at some point during the race.
The current leg of the race, Rohn to Nikolai, is one of the longer sections of the course, at 75 miles between checkpoints.
This run breaks into three natural sections: 20 miles along the south side of the South Fork of the Kuskokwim from Rohn to Farewell Lakes and up onto the Farewell Burn, 35 miles across the Burn itself to Sullivan Creek, and then 20 miles north from Sullivan Creek past Salmon River to Nikolai.
Currently it is -6 degrees in Nikolai, with a windchill of -25 and falling snow.
Lance Mackey, winner of the past three races, is currently 15th, having left the Rohn checkpoint roughly six hours after the leader Gebhardt.
The Iditarod -- the "Last Great Race On Earth" -- is an annual race from Anchorage to Nome, covering over 1,100 mile through the cold, harsh, unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. The race aims to honor some of Alaska's pioneering and brave past.
The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All via dog sled. Heroes were made, legends were born.
In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in; again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs.
The 2010 edition officially got underway on Sunday, after Saturday's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage.