It's Time! The 37th John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is underway |

It's Time! The 37th John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is underway

Updated: January 31, 2021 03:02 PM
Created: January 31, 2021 07:27 AM

In a year full of cancellations, the 2021 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is officially underway. The 37th running of one of North America's biggest and most challenging sled dog races.  Last year's winner Ryan Redington will defend his title in a field of 17 mushers in the 300-mile long race up Minnesota's North Shore. 

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, spectators won't be allowed to watch the event in person.  Beargrease officials determined the teams will start with 10 dogs.

Peter McClelland (bib 2) from Isabella was the first to leave the chute just after 9 a.m. McClelland's first Beargrease was in 2000. McClelland was followed by Alice White of Ely, and Erin Altemus of Grand Marais. Ryan Redington and his team was the 7th team to get out on the trail. Redington is wearing bib number 8.

WDIO will be live streaming the start, finish and have updates in WDIO newscasts this week.  You can see a live tracker of the teams' progress on  Highlights from past races can be viewed on the WDIO streaming app for smart TVs.

See more 2021 Beargrease coverage

The Beargrease 120-mile and 40-mile races will also be live streamed Sunday morning starting at 11am.

Established in 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon honors the memory of John Beargrease, who delivered mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais via dog sled in the late 1800s.

Race organizers say face coverings and social distancing guidelines will be enforced for the race teams, officials, volunteers and media outlets.  The lack of snow has also changed the course layout.  The race is starting at the trail head near Billy's Bar in Duluth and will end at Mineral Center, instead of Grand Portage.

Three families will be part of the field of 18 marathon mushers.  Colleen Wallin and her 18-year-old son, Ero, of Two Harbors will compete in the race.  Gregg Vitello will race alongside his son, 23-year-old Bailey.  Past marathon champion Blake Freking returns this year with his wife Jennifer running a second team from their Manitou Crossing Kennel in Finland, Minnesota.  The series also features the Beargrease 120-mile and 40-mile races.  Among the competitors in the 40-miler is Marcia Eiynck, the great-great granddaughter of race namesake John Beargrease.

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