The ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod in Anchorage, Ala., was for show. The real action began Sunday about a 90-minute drive away, when mushers began streaming out of the Willow checkpoint at two-minute intervals beginning at 6 p.m. ET.
The first musher out of Willow was also the first into Yentna, 3 hours 40 minutes later: Martin Buser. He covered the 42-mile distance at an average of 11.45 miles per hour.
"It never gets old," Buser told the Anchorage Daily News before leaving Willow. "This year feels really special. I'm probably more prepared this year than in many many years, so I'm excited about that."
With more than half the field through the first checkpoint, DeeDee Jonrowe was tied with Aaron Peck for the fastest pace at an average of 11.72 mph. Both reached the checkpoint in 3:35.
Jonrowe has been racing in the Iditarod since 1980, when she finished 24th. She has never won the race, but finished in the top 10 for 11 consecutive years, from 1988-98. She placed second twice during that span, but 10th in last year's race. Peck is competing in his fourth Iditarod, with his best finish 42nd in 2005.
The only musher to scratch so far is Ed Stielstra, who suffered an injury while training for the race and made the decision to pull out after the ceremonial start.
Mushers and their teams now head to Skwentna, located 30 miles down the trail.