Inside Look at the John Beargrease Marathon Starting Line

Every musher has a different story behind their passion to race.

TWO HARBORS, Minn.-  Mushers heading out for the John Beargrease marathon say dog racing is unlike any sport. Winter along the Northshore can create the ideal conditions or make for a challenging journey.

“We go out there and what happens, happens. You just kind of go with the flow, that’s what this sport is,” first time Beargrease musher Liza Dietzen said.

First time Beargrease musher Liza Dietzen is participating in the mid distance race with a younger team. Although they’ve clocked in many hours on trails and winter camping its unpredictable how the pups will react on this course.

“Hopefully we get into that check point and they just like know what we’re going to do and they just it do,” Dietzen said. “That’s the amazing part is like they just get into a routine, and they just go, it’s amazing to watch them.”

Just like other first time racers Dietzen isn’t sure what the trail conditions will be like, but she’s fully aware of her dogs’ conditions at all times.

“It’s like watching a well–oiled machine; if something isn’t oiled right, it’s not moving right, you can pick that out pretty clearly,” Dietzen said “I always watch their ears move and if their ears move a little off with each other something, something is probably wrong. I go and check that dog and nine out of ten times, I’m right.”

Mushers not only know when their dogs need medical attention but their personalities.

“Everyone has got a different personality,” Musher Jim Ward said. “And that’s part of the fun of mushing is to learn.”

“She’s extremely friendly but she doesn’t always stay up, so you have to figure out what she’ll do to stay up,” Morgan McClelland said.

Morgan McClelland is one of three mushers in her family racing in the John Beargrease this weekend. Mushing is a hobby for Morgan, although racing runs in the family it’s safe to say she’s in it for the dogs.

“It’s really fun and you make a lot of new friends with dogs, and then you have a lot more and they’re better than humans sometimes.

Along with keeping her lead dog Nail, from resting on the trail, she’s hoping to beat her personal record. For some racers heading out on Sunday, their passion sparked on the sidelines.

“I helped with the very first Beargrease back in 1980 at a road cross and kind of followed the race and I’m kind of one to see something and want to try it,” mid distance musher Jim Ward said.

Jim Ward says although he always had an interest in mushing he never pictured himself standing at the starting line.

“I’ve been hooked ever since, it’s a very addictive sport,” Ward said.

Although every racer has different tricks; some passed along by family members or others by watching over the years, mushers at the Beargrease say the only true way to find out…

“Spending time with them and running behind them,” Dietzen said. “That’s how you really learn.”



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