Seven billion people in the world, and of those, only 851 have ever attempted what these 69 men and women will attempt: a thousand-mile race up the Iditarod Trail. More people have won Academy Awards than have entered the Iditarod. More people have Super Bowl rings. Nearly as many have traveled to outer space.
This year's competitors come from Alaska and the Yukon and Jamaica and New Zealand and Longyearbyen, Norway; they are engineers and undertakers and and tour operators and parents and emigrants and students. For 16 of them, it is the first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race they'll spend on the runners, though many of them have been behind the scenes for years as handlers, volunteers and supporters. And for all of them, veterans and rookies alike, it looks like it will be a rough race, with trail conditions that might generously be called less than ideal.
But Thursday night at the starting banquet, as they gathered in T-shirts and bunny boots and furs and dresses, they were in high spirits, looking ahead to the weekend, the trail and the adventure of the Last Great Race. Only 851 people on the planet have done what they're about to do. These are the human faces of the 2014 Iditarod.