Official Trail map from Iditarod.com, showing the two routes. This year the race follows the southern route.
In 1978, Dick Mackey, father of Lance, and Rick Swenson, winner of the 1977 Iditarod, raced into Nome neck and neck. It had been a close race all the way through. Through the Alaskan interior and along the sea, they had traded leads. On the approach to Nome, Swenson had led by the length of a sled. At 100 yards from the finish, the two were neck and neck. Approaching the finish line, both had got off the sled runners and were running alongside holding on the their sleds. Mackey's lead dog crossed the finish line first, but then he fell, and Swenson and his sled crossed the line before Mackey.
Dick Mackey sprints with his dog team to the finish line (Anchorage Daily News)
So with this finish, the race official had to decide who was the winner. No one had ever thought a race of this length would come down to such a tight finish. Finally, the head official determined Mackey to be the winner due to his dog crossing the line first. His official winning time was 14 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes and 24 seconds. Swenson clocked in officially 1 second behind! Swenson would go on to win four more Iditarods, bringing his total to five. Mackey would not race again in the Iditarod, but has had two sons win the race, Rick in 1983 and Lance the last four years.
Mackey (Right) and his sled builder Vern Hill celebrate the victory (Anchorage Daily News)
So we shall see who wins and by how much this year. Since 1978, the training has gotten better, the technology has improved, and more racers from all over the world now compete. Still, it will be hard for there to be more excitement than 1978. Best of luck to all the racers.