If you’ve never heard about the Iditarod race, then you’ve been missing out on the toughest competitive event in the world.
This race, in Alaska, covers 1200 miles (1920 km) of the most dangerous, roughest and yet most beautiful terrains on our planet. Envision jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests and isolated tundra all far below the freezing point. Now image this setting, for 1200 miles set against a man, his sled and his dog team add at least 2 full weeks of this challenge and you’ve got yourself a reasonable idea of what the Iditarod race is.
Also known as, ‘The Last Great Race on Earth’ due to the nature of the race, ‘mushers’ (the term used for the racers) endure steep climbs in hazardous blizzard conditions with minimum visibility, if any at all, with long hours of darkness. It’s no wonder this race is considered the toughest, and it’s no wonder film crews from all over, fly to Alaska to capture the race from overhead drones and large-lensed cameras. This race is the ultimate form of teamwork, as it pits man and animal against nature. And not just any form of nature, this type of weather will literally kill you in minutes.
Let alone he race, it’s actually the mushers which cause the excitement. The interesting part of this race is that every participant takes a unique tactic to finish. These tactics stem from having to work together with their dog team creating a special nutritional menu for each dog, strategies for running through the day or night, emergency tactics for when a storm hits as well as having to calculate their dog’s and their own stamina throughout the 1200 miles. From female and male local workers to fishermen, lawyers, doctors, artists, and miners. The mushers who compete are usually no-status athletes, which makes the race ever so interesting. Among the outcasts who participate, one man has proven his mettle time and time again: Lance Mackey a four-time winner of the Iditarod Race.
“I’m going to run the Iditarod in 2019 for the fans, for the sponsors, for the state sport, for the people of the villages,” he said, “but more importantly, I’m doing the 2019 Iditarod because I can.”
From Alaskan blood, Lance Mackey and his family grew up next to the Iditarod race. Since his youth, he’s always been around a team of dogs and started his first kennel over 20 years ago. In 2007, he was the first person to win the Iditarod AND the Yukon Quest race (1,000 miles long) in the same year. An impressive feat thought to be impossible, not only because it is a back to back race thought to be too exhausting for mushers and their dog teams, but also because he ran both races whilst fighting throat cancer. As a result, Lance took home the ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award) which, if you’re wondering if it holds any value, has been won by athletes like Lebron James, Roger Federer, and Tom Brady.
But despite his trophies, Lance is better known for his mindset and ability to overcome even the toughest of obstacles. As understood by the theory of a connected mindset, there are two forms of family motivation that Lance is using to inspire his athletic capabilities. His first form of motivation is through his father, Dick Mackey, who is actually the co-founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Having set up the race from scratch and having participated in it himself, Dick Mackey has become a crucial landmark to Lance’s success. Throughout his life, Lance has felt the connection to the race as part of his own life and has, therefore, become determined to race and win. His second family motivation comes in the form of his sled dogs. To add perspective to the story, Lance has been battling drug and alcohol abuse since a very young age. Having lost all his money on this indulgence, he took to raising huskies as part of a project to begin a kennel and changing his life around. This step transformed his life to give purpose among his daily habits, now he had a kennel to take care of and in the interconnectedness of creating a life for his dogs, Lance found the motivation to create a life for his own.
Lance would do anything for his dogs, and as the tale goes rumor has it his dogs would do anything for him. For starters, they would even cross a 1,200-mile path through ice and snow for weeks on end for him. The theory behind group motivation (which is discussed in the blog, The Connected Mindset) is that when you interconnect your goals to the important people, or in this case dogs, around you. There is nothing stopping you. Take a look at Lance Mackey as an example, not because he is an impressive athlete, in fact, most would think the exact opposite of him. But despite having throat cancer so bad that his saliva glands became destroyed, and as a result, his teeth disintegrated. He still mustered the motivation to go out, train and run in the most dangerous race in the world AND won time and time again.
Lance Mackey is the perfect example of what could be achievable for anyone. Because even in his destroyed state, his inspiration and connectedness to the race and his dogs allowed him to become the champion of the toughest race on earth. This type of race is the perfect example of the accomplishments possible when working together. It’s going to be a hell of a ride, but if you work together and plan the steps necessary to get to where you’re going. Anyone is able to finish, even what is literally the most dangerous race in the world. So if this is possible in the teamwork between man and animal… imagine what you could achieve if you work together?