The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets under way this weekend, ceremonially in Anchorage on Saturday and for real in Willow on Sunday. Seventy-one mushers and their teams, including nine with ties to the Kenai Peninsula, will hit the 1,000-mile trail to Nome.
For all those mushers entering the starting chute, the journey actually began months, even years ago. Running the Last Great Race is not an endeavor for the weekend warrior; those who are truly prepared for the trail have spent years training themselves and their teams for the rigors of the trail.
"It's a commitment, a lifestyle that started when I was 4 years old," said Mitch Seavey, winner of the 2004 race.
How committed do these mushers need to be? The Seavey family has made it a lifestyle, giving sled dog rides all summer and training and racing all winter. Some peninsula mushers find seasonal work that pays for their winter "hobby"; still others fit in training runs around full-time jobs, using vacation time to get to races. Some have traveled long distances just to train here on the Peninsula.
All have this in common: running the Iditarod is a dream, and it takes plenty of blood, sweat, toil and tears to turn that dream into reality.
It may sound clich, but there's a lesson to be learned, or perhaps inspiration to be drawn, from their stories. Indeed, we frequently look to sports to inspire -- look no further than the New Orleans Saints -- and the teams we'll follow along the trail, overcoming challenges along the way, are no different. We see in them the qualities we look for in ourselves -- perseverance, dedication, the courage to chase a dream.
So here's wishing smooth trails and happy dogs to Iditarod rookies Kristy Berington, Jane Faulkner, Wattie McDonald and Colleen Robertia, and veterans Sam Deltour, Paul Gebhardt, Bruce Linton, Dallas Seavey and Mitch Seavey. Thanks for chasing your dreams, and inspiring a few of ours along the way.
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