Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Redington's Run

Well, he did it. It took 51 tries, but a Redington has finally won "Redington's Run". Joe Redington saw his dream of a long distance sled dog race come to fruition in 1973 when he literally bet his house against the odds and mortgaged it to the hilt to be able to pay for the "First Great Race". Originally believing The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race would be a loop out to the Ghost Town of Iditarod and back to Anchorage, it was suggested that it would get more attention if it started in Anchorage and went to Nome. 

Joe's vision didn't happen overnight, he'd tried as far back as the 60s to get this hairbrained idea off the ground. He enlisted his mushing friends (names like Mackey, Smyth, Seavey, and others) to share in his vision and he kept that dream alive until finally he was told to either get it off the ground or give up. It took him from the fall of 1972 to March of 1973 but he did it (with a lot of help from his friends). Originally set to run the inaugural race himself, Joe had to withdraw as this little thing of not having secured the funds to pay out the promised purse was something Joe was tasked to figure out.

Originally thought to be "Joe's Folly" (we like to label things as someone's folly up in these parts. Secretary Seward could tell Joe a thing or two about it, I'm sure), the Iditarod stood the test of time. It has battled anti-mushing propaganda, several economic busts, global warming, increasing changes to trail due to population expansion... but the love of dogs and the dream of doing "the impossible" spurs the imaginations of mushers in each generation.

Though Joe Redington is the Father of the Iditarod, he never won the race - never really even came close. His sons ran the race and got closer. His grandsons have run, with grandson Ray coming closest a few years back. Each year the media would pressure whichever family member(s) was in the race - was this the year they'd bring a win home for Dad/Grandpa? Joe Redington Sr passed away in 2002 and it became a "will this be the year you win it for Grandpa's memory?" The pressure from fans and other outside sources had to be immense, and then the added of the personal desire to get that bust of Joe on the mantel also weighed no doubt heavily.

Ryan Redington has steadily climbed the ranks in the mushing world. He's a multi-time Beargrease champion, but he couldn't quite take it all the way in The Big One. Last year was supposed to be the year. It was the 50th race, he titled it Redington's Run. He finished 9th in an incredibly difficult final leg. 

This year Ryan tried a little bit of a different tactic, probably brought on by the crazy warm temps the first few days of the race gave the teams. The slower pace seemed to level everyone out, though Ryan told Insider several times he wasn't sure his team was ready to win this year. Whether that was mind games or what Ryan was seeing at the time, one can't possibly know, but it felt like this would be yet another Iditarod without a Redington leading the charge.

Until Kaltag. Brent Sass had exited the race, Jessie Holmes had stalled, Nic Petit had never materialized. Suddenly Ryan found himself in front - not by a lot - but he was in front. Peter Kaiser was hot on his heels and had all of the analysts salivating over out good his team looked (stop I don't mean they were hungry for sled dog). But Ryan had been given an opportunity and he took it.

Before the race began, Ryan found a note in a fortune cookie that would give him the same sort of magic inspiration that Lance Mackey got in 2007 during a Bib draw. For Lance it was drawing bib 13, the same number his father and brother wore when they won their Iditarod titles. For Ryan it came down to his fortune cookie telling him the number five would be very lucky for him that week. Ryan drew Bib #5.

And so as he lead the way from Kaltag to Unalakleet he never looked back. Yes, there were bigger, stronger teams that all of the past Iditarod mushers and analysts were talking about. Yes, he'd crashed and burned on Iditarod before, but this time he told himself he needed to stay focused and keep the pace.

And then he was first to his mother's home village of Unalakleet - a first in the Redington and race history. Then first to Shaktoolik. Kaiser still close behind and gaining. Then Koyuk. And then the big move. Ryan and team ran straight for Koyuk into White Mountain. A "monster" run of 88 miles. His dogs and he looked beat. Mentally the dogs were in need of a break and Ryan needed a nap. So he fed and bedding the dogs for an 8 hour rest. While Ryan ran all the way, Peter stayed in Elim resting his dogs and giving Ryan a five hour cushion - or so fans thought until Pete made his way to the check point of White Mountain and he was only four hours behind. Still plenty of time between Ryan and Pete to give Ryan some breathing room. He contemplated staying past the mandatory eight.

But then 12:12am came around and Ryan was ready to pull the hook. Reports of those watching the feed grew concerned as Ryan's dogs seemed to need help waking up, but they started down the trail and while not a blistering record setting pace, they made their way to the checkpoint of Safety through wind that were forecasted to gust up to 40mph. Slowly they made their way through the Topkok Hills, through the blowhole and into the checkpoint. They continued on to the finish line coming in at 12:12pm. His small team of six dogs looked better coming into Nome than they had the night before, but are most definitely excited for warm beds and fresh snacks. They did their job and made their musher proud.

This was a long time coming, we've all said it, and watching Ryan achieve a lifelong goal was the perfect way to kick off "the next fifty years." Joe's grandson brought this race full circle not only achieving the Redington family dream and legacy, but inspiring the mushing community. Ryan is Inupiaq, holding up a long standing tradition of mushing that was passed down for thousands of generations of Native Alaskans.

Congratulations, Ryan, on completing your Redington's Run.

"Here's to Joe, and it's off you go
In the land of the midnight sun
They call this race the Iditarod Trail
But to me it's Redington's Run
In my heart it's Redington's Run!"
                                -Hobo Jim


  1. Beautifully written, thqnks.

  2. Wonderful, Toni.

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  4. Nicely put Toni! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Such a wonderful historical perspective! Beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us!

    1. I just keep waiting for someone to correct me on something. I already caught one oops and fixed it! LOL Thank you for reading. :)

  6. So well-written! I've been looking for a one-shot summary to send to my non-fan friends and family, and this is it! Thank you!

  7. Absolutely love your writi g! Such a great story.

  8. Wow Toni!💕🐾