|Mitch Seavey at the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, Ak. March 4, 2017|
But don't declare him the winner just yet. While it looks like it will take an act of God for any team to overtake him, it's happened before. Many times. Susan Butcher in 1991 lost her chance to win when a storm blew in - Rick Swenson kept going and won. In 2014 an insane windstorm caused Jeff King (who had such a lead over the rest there was "no way" he wasn't going to win) to scratch, and Aliy Zirkle to hunker down in Safety while Dallas Seavey pushed through to win. Today's forecast shows no sign of anything like that happening this time around, but it's Alaska. Weather is sometime unpredictable.
It's just 77 miles. Mitch and his team of 11 superstar dogs will run to the final checkpoint of Safety where he will put his bib over his parka, call up his dogs, and make the short jaunt to Nome. He'll have to climb one final mountain (which in normal years would be more like a hill compared to what they ran through, but this year is the biggest one). He's run along the coast until he pops over the seawall and runs down Front Street. He will stop to snack his dogs along the way. He will give them all a quick rub down and a bunch of "good boys!" as they munch on their snacks and hydrate.
There will be no more resting on the trail. Aside from the stops to snack and water the dogs, they're just going to run. It's just 77 miles, and then their race is done. They'll get all the rest they could ever want after they run under the burled arch. Their musher will also get the rest his body so desperately needs. The dogs have been pampered this past week, the musher not so much.
Dallas Seavey just left White Mountain with a 13 minute head start on Nicolas Petit. It's hard to imagine either will run down Mitch's team. It's possible, we know that, but it's highly unlikely. It's just 77 miles, and Mitch has an hour lead on them. It's just 77 miles before Mitch Seavey gets to stop racing and just admire what his team accomplished. It's just the 77 miles this team of dogs has trained for all year.
It's just 77 miles until someone, most likely Mitch Seavey, wins Iditarod 45.