Beargrease rookie is Iditarod top four finisher

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The 2022 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will see one of the biggest fields in the last decade. Right now, 24 mushers are registered to run the 300-mile race from Duluth to Grand Portage.

One of them, Wade Marrs, will be a rookie to this race. But he’s placed as high as 4th in the 2021 Iditarod, making his a team to watch this year.

"I started mushing when I was really young," Marrs said.

He’s from Knik, Alaska, and has finished the Iditarod nine times between 2009 and 2021.

But in the fall of 2021, he took a new trail, moving his team to Wisconsin.

"My wife’s from Wisconsin originally, so we always thought about it would be kind of fun to go back and forth a little bit," Marrs said.

He’d heard about the Beargrease, especially after his friend and two-time champion Ryan Redington started running it. Right now, the two keep their kennels on the same property near Brule.

"He’s been asking me a lot of questions about Beargrease, and I’ve been asking a lot of questions about Iditarod," Redington said. "So yeah, it’s been a lot of dog talk and it’s been a lot of fun."

"The interesting thing is I’ve been focusing on Iditarod for quite a few years," Marrs said, "and so running middle distance races has just been kind of a second thing to do."

Redington said he doesn’t hold anything back when other mushers ask about the Beargrease. What did he tell Marrs to be prepared for? "Just hills. A lot of hills," Marrs said.

He’s also looking forward to the amount of required rest. Teams must amass 24 hours total over the course of the three-day, 300-mile race.

"The 300s that I’ve ran in the past, the lowest one in rest is 10 hours," Marrs said. "And then a high one up there would be about 18 hours. And the Beargrease has 24. So it’s a lot of rest, that amount of time. But with all the hills, I think it’s probably going to be awesome."

About half of Marrs’ Beargrease team of Alaskan huskies are Iditarod finishers, and the other half are hard-driving 2-year-olds.

"There’s been some pretty big surprises with the 2-year-olds, just who looks good on normal day runs and then who looks good after three or four camps," he said.

He said he’s looking forward to racing in the Lower 48.

"It’s a whole new ball game for me, and there’s some really good competition that knows what they’re doing here," he said. "So it’ll be tough to overcome some of that."

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon starts at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 30. WDIO will live stream the start beginning at 9:50 a.m. on our website and Facebook page.