During the historic 1925 Race for Mercy (Serum Run), Togo, the legendary Siberian husky, led Leonhard Seppala’s team across dangerous Alaskan terrain. At the time, Togo was 12 years old, an age when most sled dogs would retire; but, with his boundless energy, courage and determination, Togo pulled through the harsh weather conditions and ran more miles than any other team in a race against the clock. To Togo, age was just a number.
Similarly, this notion is shared by 53-year old Mitch Seavey, winner of the 41st Iditarod, who also emerged as the oldest musher to ever win this challenging race. Mitch crossed the finish line in Nome clocking a time of nine days, seven hours, 39 minutes and 56 seconds. Continue reading
Video filmed by Marc Heft. Edited by Jesse Tarlton.
The Iditarod was inspired by the 1925 Race for Mercy or Serum Run, during which life-saving diphtheria serum was delivered to Nome via sled dog teams. All of the dogs were amazing, including the most famous, Balto. But it was Leonhard Seppala and a 12-year old, undersized husky, named Togo, who led a team five times further than any other sled dog team over treacherous, unchartered territory. Without Togo, the villagers of Nome would likely have perished. This blog post is part of TogoRun’s campaign to tell Togo’s untold story.
Aliy Zirkle, in one of the more dramatic endings in Iditarod history, came in second, only minutes behind the winner. As Quito, Aliy’s lead dog, raced toward the finish line exuding confidence and speed, it’s hard not to picture Togo in a similar scene nearly 100 years ago. Just as there is the “go” in Togo, there is “no quit” in Quito, and both of these dogs are to be admired for their work and determination.
A true Alaskan and dog-lover at heart, Aliy has now raced and finished the Iditarod 13 times, with her best finishes coming in 2012 and 2013, where she placed second both times. Although she is “in it to win it,” Aliy’s philosophy about being a musher is driven by passion – her dogs. These dogs are also on a mission and possess an inner-drive that only Aliy is capable of unleashing. Continue reading
Leonhard Seppala, originally from a small fishing village in Norway, came to Alaska in the early in 1900s, and was immediately drawn to caring for, training and racing dogs; Siberian Huskies to be precise, a new breed brought over from Russia only years before. Seppala transformed his dogs into racing champions through the years, culminating in three consecutive dominating victories at the All Alaska Sweepstakes.
Seppala’s determination, spirit, courage and love for his dogs, which he displayed throughout his life, are the criteria used to award the Seppala Heritage grant, to help a new and upcoming musher leave his own mark at the Iditarod.
Being on assignment for TogoRun in Anchorage has given me the opportunity to speak to this year’s Seppala Heritage grant recipient, Mike Ellis. Continue reading