Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race and eternal goals

 During the 29 years I lived in Alaska, the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race became a much anticipated event.  The race commemorates an event from 1925 when  the small town of Nome, Alaska, had an outbreak of deadly diphtheria.  A relay involving 20 mushers and around 150 sled dogs rushed the antitoxin to Nome in a period of a little more than 5 days, thus saving many lives.

The modern race is not a relay.  Mushers and their dogs go from checkpoint to checkpoint, enduring harsh conditions, to race over 1000 miles from Wasilla or Willow to Nome.   The race is run early in March.  Near the end of a long, dark winter, the Iditarod is  a nice break and a sign that Spring is on the way.

I think there are many analogies that can be drawn between the race and life in general.  It is not possible to run the Iditarod without a lot of preparation.  Mushers must have successfully completed a qualifying race.  They are also required to carry certain items with them to take proper care of themselves and their dogs while along the trail. Our lives also take preparation to reach our eternal goals.  As we prepare spiritually, we become more spiritually strong and ready to successfully get where we want our lives to go.

The race this year (2016) had a couple of notable events.  It is always wise to expect the unexpected.  Sometimes things go wrong for a time, but there is a reward for enduring to the end. 

Two mushers this year, Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle, had an unfortunate experience that might have stopped a less prepared musher.  A drunken snowmachiner seemingly attacked their teams.  In Aliy’s case, he circled back and made several passes, injuring at least one of her dogs.  Jeff was not as fortunate.  Several of his dogs were injured badly, and one died.  I wondered if that would be the end of the race for them…if they would scratch.  They each dropped one or more dogs off at the next checkpoint of Nulato, but they kept on going.  They were focused on the goal ahead, the finish line in Nome.  They did not let the distractions or discouragements of their situation deter them from their goal.   So it is in our lives.  Things happen…some good, some bad.  Our goal is eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  When we hit rough times and situations, we need to focus on our goal, so that we do not become distracted and discouraged.

During the end of the race, three mushers seemed to be taking turns in the lead.  Any one of them could have won the race.  At the second to the last checkpoint, all mushers and teams are required to take a layover of 8 hours before the last 77 mile dash to the finish line. The three top teams came into the checkpoint of White Mountain relatively close together.  The dogs were fed and rested as well as the mushers.  At the end of the 8 hour layover, two of the teams were eager to be off for the finish line.  They ran joyfully.  The third team didn’t realize that their goal was so close.  Shortly after the team left White Mountain, the dogs decided they were finished.  They sat down.  They did not have the information they needed to rally and finish their race.  By not enduring to the end and keeping an eye on their goal, they missed their potential for a great reward.  We are fortunate with the Gospel, to know that our goal is there, waiting for us if we but endure.

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