The future home of Iditarod dreams: 50 grand for a belt buckle?

As many of my rabid readers, friends and fans know by now, I am in Alaska training for the 2013 Iditarod. It will be on the hardest two and a half years of my life, Guaranteed. I have sacrificed a lot just to get to this point and we are not even close to thinking about the Iditarod itself. I left my family behind in Colorado to continue to run our business. It has only been two months but it feels like a lifetime.

My good friend, Paul said a couple of weeks ago, don’t even get caught up in the Iditarod right now. Just take it one day at a time.

That is probably some of the best advice I have heard all year.

I just finished reading a book, Graveyard of Dreams by Alaska Dispatch journalist, Craig Medred. It is about the personal sacrifices that a musher goes though to attempt what some call the impossible, a 1049 mile race on the back of a dog sled in sometimes 50 below zero temperatures without sleep for days on end and some of the toughest landscape in the world.

Many go broke trying to run the race. Many lose everything they have. Some lose their families, their jobs, their savings and some even say their sanity chasing a dream. Some call it an addiction that they will never shake. Others will quit cold turkey when Mother Nature slaps them in the face.

[ Rewind: Where’s Your Sense of Adventure ]

It is said that it can cost a musher anywhere from 50 to 85 thousand dollars to prepare and run the Iditarod, a race of anywhere from 9 to 13 days. Some nearly die in the process and others would give up their soul to cross under the burled arch in Nome.

Unless you win, sponsorships are hard to come by with many just wanting to donate a pair of boots, a bag of dog food or if you are really lucky a sled. If you don’t have deep pockets a musher will spend years fundraising and hosting pancake cook-offs and spaghetti dinners to raise funds. In 2011 the entry fee for the race is $4,000.00 and it goes up every year.

The coveted belt buckle

Up until just a few years ago more people had climbed Mount Everest than finished the Iditarod. That is pretty select company.

Many of the top mushers have trained for years to make it to the top, winning with a breeding program and decades of running dogs. Then there are the rookies. I will be one of them, and I have heard hours of advice and talked to many people and they all tell me the same thing: nothing will prepare you for the race in training.

Lets just say I have a lot to learn.

I am on a three year plan. A plan that I have thought about for more than a decade, to run this race. A dream that I have been chasing since I was 16 years old. I hope my plan is good enough to prepare me to get to Nome. It is flexible and may change. But one thing is certain:

50 grand is a small price to pay for that belt buckle in Nome.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and The Dog Doctor Radio Show

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About robertforto

Robert Forto is the owner of Dog Works Training Company in Alaska, a canine behaviorist, mushin' down a dream, sports nut and radio show host. Robert writes a lot about his observations in Alaska, pop culture, music, and of course dogs!

View all posts by robertforto

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3 Comments on “The future home of Iditarod dreams: 50 grand for a belt buckle?”

  1. Michele Forto Says:

    Chasing the dream of running the Iditarod is the same as anyone’s pursuit to follow their dream. Goals are set, plans are made and made again…..the token you receive for participating whether it be the coveted belt buckle from the Iditarod or that $50,000 piece of paper with a gold seal that says you’re now a professional – no matter what the dream, we all have them and if we don’t try to run them down, then we aren’t living!


  2. Mary Hunter Says:

    wow. Just found your blog.

    I wish you the best of luck as you train!



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