The Family Business: Two Harbors Wallins’ Prepares For Another Beargrease Marathon

TWO HARBORS, Minn. — The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is just around the corner, and while teams across the country are getting ready for the races, here in Two Harbors., it’s just another day at the office for the Wallin’s.

“It’s just a real celebration of being a Minnesotan and loving the winter,” Colleen Wallin said.

The Wallin’s have been racing for decades, and living in Northern Minnesota, mushing was an easy thing to get in to.

“When you see the race, it is so moving, and there is so much energy, and there is so much going on,” she added.

Colleen and Ward Wallin saw the Beargrease Marathon nearby their house in Two Harbors, and after attending a trip in the Boundary Waters nearly 30 years ago, Colleen knew she had to take part, “and I started crying and I said, I just want six dogs, that’s all I want, and we have a trail system, we can train them, and Ward goes, well lets research it.”

After that research and seeing some kennels, the Wallin dynasty began.

“So we did, we ended up getting six dogs and I told Ward that’s all I ever want to run, well, the rest as they say is history,” Colleen said.

Now, they have grown since, breed their own dogs, and the bond that has developed between the Wallin’s and their dogs, is one of Ward’s favorite parts.

“It’s what the dogs give you back, people say, ‘well they’re just a dog’, but they communicate in different ways and the connection you have with the dog is amazing, you can have a bad day at work or anything, and we get home, we hook up a dog team and they’re so willing to please, it’s just amazing, what they want to do for you is just incredible,” Ward said.

Over the years, son Ero, a freshman baseball player at Saint Cloud, joined in on the family’s passion, ready to run his second Beargrease Marathon in just a couple of weeks.

Collen remembered the first time he asked to race, “and he put his hands on his shoulders and said, there’s only one thing though, if you’re going to worry about me, I’m not going to do it, and I’m like, okay, I’m done, I won’t worry a bit.”

“I mean they’re the biggest support team I have, they know what they’re doing, they’ve been around the block a couple times and they’ve helped me so much in becoming a better musher, being more efficient and looking at the dogs and really paying attention to the things that are super important in the race,” Ero said.

And the Wallin’s feel fortunate to have the whole family involved.

“We’re actually making a big change right before the race, were switching our gang lineup and I’m okay with that, I want him to explore. He’s got a few different ideas, and he’s been asking fellow musher buddies information and I’ve encouraged that what we’ve been doing isn’t necessarily the only way to do it, and so it’s been really fun having the three of us train,” Ward said.

Like father like son, according to Ero, the dogs are the best part, “the dogs, definitely, if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing, they’re always upbeat, they’re always happy, they don’t care if you’re first or last, they’re just happy to be out there running,” Ero said.

And to Colleen, this makes it all worth it, “I just love that he is able to see the wonders that I see, have the bond with these dogs that I have.”

The countdown is on for the Beargrease Marathon, and final preparations are underway.

The teams are in good shape and all that’s left is packing, making sure the dogs are good to go, and getting in the marathon mindset, for one of the Northlands biggest and best races.

The marathon starts at Billy’s Bar in Duluth January 30th.

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