By Heather Holliday

Two-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass, Alaska, checkpoint during the 25th anniversary of the Iditarod in 1997. (AP/Wide World)

The Iditarod sled-dog race is run on a trail that was originally a mail-supply route. In 1925, part of the trail became a lifesaving highway for the children who lived in Nome. A serum, or a liquid used to prevent or cure a disease, had to be delivered to the children who suffered from a deadly disease. The serum was transported successfully by a string of mushers and their dogs.

The Iditarod race is a commemoration, or an event to remember something special, of that historic event. Mushers have been running the race annually since 1973. Thirty-five mushers attempted the first race, but only 22 finished. The first Iditarod winner took 20 days to complete the race. Over the years, mushers and their dogs have gained confidence and speed. Last year, the winner completed the race in just under nine days, the fastest finish ever.

The Iditarod is sometimes called "The Last Great Race on Earth." Every year, it begins in Anchorage during the first weekend in March. Each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their mushers cover the distance to Nome in approximately 9 to 17 days. The winner's prize varies year to year. This year the reward will be $69,000 in cash, about $500 more than last year, and a new Dodge pickup valued at over $40,000.