2017 Iditarod - Manley Hot Springs

Aliy Zirkle departs the Manley Hot Springs checpoint of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on March 7, 2017. Zirkle was the sixth into the checkpoint, but was first out after spending about 15 minutes resupplying and checking on her dogs. Matt Buxton/News-Miner

When musher Aliy Zirkle leaves the start chute of the 2021 Iditarod on March 7, it will be her last start as a competitive sled dog racer.

Zirkle made the announcement in a note posted on the website of SP Kennel, which she runs with her husband, Allen Moore, in Two Rivers.

“This spring, after I finish my 21st Iditarod, I will retire from competitive sled dog racing,” she stated.

Zirkle has been a mainstay in distance mushing for decades, constantly espousing women’s ability to compete at the highest levels and do anything that men can.

In 2000 she became the first woman to win the 1,000 Mile Yukon Quest; she secured second-place finishes in the Iditarod three years running (2012, 2013 and 2014) and has raced more than 30,000 miles in her career, including 20 consecutive Iditarod finishes. She also has won the Humanitarian Award for exceptional dog care a record six times.

Zirkle stated that retirement was not a quick decision, “I know that in the not-so-distant future, I will not be able to give it my 100%. So, I am retiring before I have to retire.”

While saying her post-Iditarod future is undecided, she states that her team of huskies will continue to play an integral part of her life. “Throughout my competitive life, I never gave up my values of deep love and respect for my dogs. These will be with me until my dying day.”

In her letter, Zirkle continues empowering people to be their best, “I truly believe you have, inside yourself, everything you need to ride over the roughest trails in life, stand up in the worst storm, stare down any challenge and make it to your own finish line.”