Each January the beloved John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is held in northeast Minnesota. The race, named after the mail carrier, John Beargrease, who delivered mail up and down the North Shore via dogsled and rowboat, began in 1980. Teams begin in Duluth and follow a hilly course through the Sawtooth Mountains to the Gunflint Trail, turn around, and wind their way back. Each year, top racers from across the world register to compete in the nearly 400-mile marathon (a qualifying race for the Iditarod in Alaska) or the 112-mile mid-distance race. Typically about 35 competitors toe the starting line.
Conditions for the course differ each year and mushers meet many challenges along the way. The hilly course has been said to make the Iditarod course seem like a walk in the park. Potentially cruel temperature changes and limited sleep also keep mushers digging deep into their emotional reserves to finish the race.
Checkpoints along the route are easily accessible and offer many opportunities for people to take part in this event as spectators or volunteers. So, slip on your mukluks, grab a thermos of hot chocolate, and join in on the fun!
To learn more about this year’s event, visit www.beargrease.com.