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Adorable sled dogs alert. Today marked the ceremonial kick-off party for the "Last Great Race," or the Iditarod, Alaska's annual sled dog race. The real race starts tomorrow, but for now we'll have to wait with this picture of a dog adorably licking four-time champion Martin Buser's face.

Probably one of the last sporting events not extensively broadcast on 100 different channels and/or pay-per-view in the U.S., the annual race will kick off tomorrow in Willow, Alaska boasting over 60 teams of sled dogs racing across an over 1,000 mile trail in the Alaskan wilderness. The race itself only dates back to 1973, but people in Alaska were travelling the Iditarod trail long before there was an organized competition. 

There are actually two different courses Iditarod organizers can choose from; a southern route and a northern route. This year the race will use the southern option, which includes more check points for food and water, but is considered the more difficult of the two because it's longer and spends more time travelling across the state's icy rivers. 

Last year, the race was won by its youngest "musher" ever, 25-year-old Dallas Seavey. He'll have to fight off Buser and two other four-time champions if he hopes to repeat. He'll also have to deal with frigid temperatures and a gruelling marathon of a course through some of America's most barren, open, frozen terrain. But, y'know, that's no big deal for these guys. (It's totally a big deal for these guys.) Mush on, puppies. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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