Qualifier Races for Rookies

Greetings Teachers!

Sled Dog Ed

Sled Dog Ed

What does the word “qualify” mean to you? How about to your students? The world is filled with many important events that one must qualify for or have the certain qualifications of which to participate. There are qualifications for graduation, joining a sports team, entering contests, holding public office, becoming a citizen, applying for a job and the list goes on. Needless to say, the rookies for the Iditarod must “qualify” in order to participate in the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. It isn’t as if they get up one morning and decide, “Gee, I think I will run a 1049 mile race with my dog team.”

Rookie mushers must prove they have the necessary stamina, tolerance for sleep deprivation, mental perseverance, wilderness survival skills, knowledge of dog care and feeding schedules, ability to manage and control a dog team, etc. All of the skills necessary to qualify for running the Iditarod may be found on the Iditarod website (Information>Mushers>Required Paperwork for Rookies>Report Card). You can also refer to my article, “Report Card Time!”, for more information. Have your students discuss the various skills and traits needed to qualify for running the Iditarod and their importance.

In order to demonstrate the rookie’s knowledge of the required skills and techniques for running an endurance race, the 2017 rules state that a rookie must run 2- 300 mile or more approved qualifying races and 1- 150 mile or more approved qualifier race. The rookie may also run the Yukon Quest in which that would be the only qualifying race needed due to its length. Information about which races are considered approved qualifiers for the rookies check out the Iditarod website (Information>Mushers>2017 Qualifying Races). Have your students compare and contrast 5 or 6 of the possible qualifying races.

Students can brainstorm what areas to compare and contrast for each race. Examples might be length of race, types of terrain, specific rules, types of weather, typical number of racers, mandatory rests, location, cost to enter, when race is held, etc. Create a chart or spreadsheet to enter information as students research each chosen qualifier race. Below is an example of a chart that might be created:


 Junior Iditarod

Yukon Quest  


John Beargrease


Dog Marathon

Northern Lights






Types of Terrain




Weather Conditions


When Race is Held


# of Racers



Once students have completed their chart, students may use a map outline of North America to plot the locations of the various qualifying races. Make sure to save time to have students process the information shown on their charts and maps. What observations do they notice? Are there any commonalities between races? What might make a musher choose one race over another? If you were a rookie musher, which races would you choose as your qualifiers and why?

Running a race takes planning. Rookies need to plan ahead in order to reach their goal. I know here at the kennel much attention is given to preparing the sled dogs and musher for each race that is a stepping stone toward Iditarod. It isn’t an im“paw”ssible feat….just takes dedication and determination.

~Sled Dog Ed