Norway’s Thomas Waerner was the first musher to reach the Unalakleet checkpoint on Alaska’s Bering Sea coast on Sunday as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race enters its final stretch.
Waerner was presented with a commemorative plate on arrival before preparing for the final push to Nome, just 77 miles (124 kilometers) away.
The race began with deeper than usual snow, but has seen warmer weather as it progressed, which has slowed some mushers’ pace.
“Snow and trails are super soft so it also make it super slow,” said Jessie Royer, currently in second place. “So we stopped more than we originally planned on to give the dogs a little more rest.”
The race is one of the few sporting events not canceled because of coronavirus concerns. But some villages have moved checkpoints outside of town, while events in Nome centered around the race were canceled after Alaska’s first confirmed coronavirus case was detected in Anchorage. Race officials on Friday took the unprecedented step of asking spectators to stay away from the Nome finish as well.