The world's most famous sled-dog race got underway on Saturday when 38 mushers and their canine teams, one of the smallest rosters of competitors ever, lined up in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, to start the 52nd annual running of the Iditarod.

The untimed and ceremonial 11-mile (18 km) jaunt through the U.S. state's most populous city will kick off the grueling 1,000-mile test of endurance into the Alaska wilderness.

Timed competition begins on Sunday in the small community of Willow, north of Anchorage, with the winner expected to cross the finish line in the Bering Sea town of Nome about eight or nine days later.