WILLOW, Alaska (AP) — The nearly thousand-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is underway in Alaska.

Scott Janssen, an undertaker by profession who is known as the Mushing Mortician, was the first musher to leave Willow, Alaska, Sunday.

The race has a staggered start, and the other 84 mushers behind Janssen, will leave in two-minute intervals.

The race crosses long stretches of unforgiving terrain, including two mountain ranges and the wind-lashed Bering Sea coast. The winner is expected in the old Gold Rush era town of Nome, on Alaska's western coast, in about nine days.