Jason Mackey, brother to the late mushing icon Lance Mackey, was the last musher to cross under Nome’s burled arch Friday, bringing an end to this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Mackey, 51, finished in 12 days, 2 hours and about three minutes, earning the Red Lantern award, given to the last musher to finish the race.
“I guess it’s in our blood,” Mackey said when he was asked how he persisted through problems and challenging conditions along the trail. “It’s in every musher’s blood. We don’t give up.”
It marks the end of an emotional period for Mackey. After stepping away from mushing to rebuild his life a few years ago, he returned to the Iditarod this year just months after his brother’s passing from cancer. Mackey has carried some of Lance’s and his mother’s ashes and scattered them along the trail.
The race veteran said his dogs had been dealing with a digestive ailment from day two onward, finally recovering on the last leg. The hardest stretch was mushing into a winter storm on his way up the coast, he said.
“I’ve run in blizzard conditions, but I’ve never been in blizzard conditions where I couldn’t see anything. I mean, it was literally like staring at a white wall,” Mackey said. “I figured I’d run into Shaktoolik eventually.”
Mackey learned in the finish chute that a new granddaughter — 6 pounds, 13 ounces — was born the day before.
“Lucky 13,” an announcer noted. Three members of the Mackey family have won Iditarods wearing bib No. 13.
Mackey came in at 5:03 p.m. Friday, not long after rookie Jed Stephensen as the back-of-the-pack teams trickled in throughout the course of the day.
In the final tally, 29 mushers made it all the way to Nome out of a starting field of 33. Four mushers had to drop out of competition, including last year’s champion Brent Sass, rookies Jennifer LaBar and Gregg Vitello, as well as veteran musher Eric Kelly. Unlike previous years, this year’s field — the smallest in the race’s history — stayed relatively compact across the length of the trail, with no major stragglers or mushers yanked under the race’s rules that teams must be running competitively.
This year’s winner, Ryan Redington — grandson of the Iditarod’s chief architect Joe Redington Sr. — made the journey in 8 days, 21 hours, 12 minutes and 58 seconds, the second-fastest finish along the race’s southern route, about three hours behind John Baker’s 2011 victory.
The Iditarod concludes with a banquet Sunday in Nome, where mushers will be presented with the race’s awards.
Here’s a breakdown of each finishing musher’s share of the total $500,000 prize purse, according to Iditarod officials: 1st place: Ryan Redington, $51,800; 2nd place: Peter Kaiser, $43,700; 3rd place: Richie Diehl, $40,250; 4th place: Matt Hall, $36,300; 5th place: Jessie Holmes, $33,450; 6th place: Kelly Maixner, $29,000; 7th place: Eddie Burke Jr., $27,000; 8th place: Matthew Failor, $25,450; 9th place: Mille Porsild, $23,950; 10th place: Wade Marrs, $22,500; 11th place: Hunter Keefe, $21,100; 12th place: Dan Kaduce, $19,800; 13th place: Christian Turner, $18,500; 14th place: Jessie Royer, $17,300; 15th place: Aaron Peck, $16,100; 16th place: KattiJo Deeter, $14,950; 17th place: Nicolas Petit, $13,850; 18th place: Riley Dyche, $12,800; 19th place: Ramey Smyth, $$11,850; 20th place: Deke Naaktgeboren, $10,909; and 21st through 29th places: Kristy Berington, Anna Berington, Michael Williams Jr., Bailey Vitello, Joanna Jagow, Gerhardt Thiart, Bridgett Watkins, Jed Stephensen, Jason Mackey, $1,049 each.