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A gruelling dog-sled race across Alaska
Monday 1st - Friday 5th March 2004 3.45-4.00pm

Edward de la Billiere travels to Alaska to follow the Iditarod, a 1000-mile dog-sled race across the vast, frozen wilderness. Ed competed in the race in 2000 and last year he returned to chart the progress of the huskies he trained and ran. In this series, he follows their journey over a thousand miles of snow and ice, from the state capital Anchorage to Nome, a small gold-rush town next to the frozen Bering Sea.

Ed and huskies
Ed with two Alaskan huskies

Programme 1

The Iditarod dog-sled race is a major event in the Alaskan calendar and there is great excitement at the start line in Anchorage. Ed is especially excited as he is re-united with the dogs that he trained and run as puppies: Vinet, Shy, Turbo and Kuta. He watches with mixed emotions as they start their epic journey known as "The Last Great Race on Earth".

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Dog team at the start
The dogs are keen to start their long journey

Programme 2

Ed is itching to get back on a sled himself so he takes a team of 18 huskies out for a ride through the Alaskan wilderness.

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2 huskies
Ed's two lead dogs ready to pull him through the Alaskan wilderness 

Programme 3

Ed catches up with the race in the tiny village of Ruby, 325 miles along the route and discovers how his dogs, Vinet, Turbo and Shy are performing. With the temperature at -25C, the race is taking its toll on some of the mushers. They get little sleep and many don't finish the race. But the dogs don't seem to mind. They are bred to run and have the highest metabolic rate of any mammal, a huge lung capacity, warm fur and incredible stamina. Any dogs that are injured, ill or simply don't want to run any more are flown home - and the pilots have an unusual way of dealing with unruly passengers!

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Ed on frozen yukon
Ed waits for the first musher to come along the frozen Yukon river

Programme 4

The tension is mounting as the mushers and their dog teams reach one of the last checkpoints, the native Alaskan village of White Mountain. Can the Norwegian, Robert Sorlie, retain his lead? 

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sleeping husky
Taking a well-earned rest

Programme 5

The race ends in Nome, a goldrush town on the edge of the frozen Bering Sea. Whilst waiting for the winner to arrive, Ed finds out about the town's colourful history and meets Howard Farley, one of the organisers of the original Iditarod race in 1972. The race commemorates the 1925 serum run, when Nome was struck by a diptheria epidemic. The only way to get life-saving medicine to the town was by a relay of dog teams across the state. The serum arrived just in time and thousands of lives were saved thanks to the huskies' speed and endurance.

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