By Greg Bartlett
The Iditarod sled dog race is a traditional reenactment of a run across some of the worst possible terrain known to man in an effort to get medical supplies to Nome. The distance is over 1150 miles, and the race is being run for the 37th time this year. GPS tracking has added a new dimension to this race in the last two years.
In the past, once the race was underway, it was impossible to know where the participants might be located until they crossed the finish line. Considering the terrain they were trying to cross, this was not always a safe race. Several participants have died in the wilderness trying to complete the course. GPS tracking will reduce the chance of these occurrences being repeated.
In addition to the added safety factor of the GPS tracking devices being on the participants in the race, those interested in following the race and how it develops over time can now follow the progress of each racer in real time by monitoring the GPS signals with a computer hooked to the internet. This facet will make the Iditarod more of a spectator sport than it has ever been in the past.
Exposure, dehydration, starvation, these are all potential problems faced by the race participants. They also must face the very good chance of being injured during the course of the race. As a safety precaution, the race governors have the option of dispatching help to any race participant who does not move for a period of time longer than would be normal for a rest stop along the way. Whether they do or not, is up to them, but this move would definitely improve the safety of race participants while out on the course.
GPS tracking has long been used to monitor vehicles and businesses use it for tracking fleets. The benefits of using GPS in such ways have long been obvious. The addition of GPS technology to a sporting event such as the Iditarod sled dog race can change the face of extreme sports forever. Events that occur in distant and remote locations where participants have been at risk of death can now be made more open for spectators to follow and the safety of the participants can be pushed to a higher level to make these events better for all concerned.