Fifty-one years ago Joe Redington Sr. saw a dream realized when the first Iditarod mushers completed the race he worked so hard to develop. Today his grandson, Ryan Redington, won the Iditarod – closing the circle from creator to champion. Ryan, in bib #5, came down Front Street just after noon having raced for 8 days, 21 hours, 12 minutes and 58 seconds. He had six dogs in harness, with Ghost and Sven in lead, as he crossed the finish line. Greeted by friends, family, and officials he was beaming, likely battling a mix of emotions including joy, relief, exhaustion, and pride. It all came together on this sunny day in Nome – the hard work, the dedication, the determination, the family legacy, and the love of the dogs – to create a perfect result, an Iditarod championship run.
Ryan has raced Iditarod 16 times from 2001 to 2023. Yet, it hasn’t always been a wreath of yellow roses. He scratched in his first race, and several others, on his journey to champion. At the finish Ryan stated, “It took a lot of work. A lot of patience. We failed a few times but I never let go of the dream.” That sums up the process of achievement. As a teacher in the 21st century I’m aware that students consume a flurry of social media posts that show only the highlight reel of life – skipping over the hard work that leads to success. Redington knows seeing a dream to fruition is the result of continued effort and a refusal to quit.
After the ceremony and celebration he answered questions for fans and a reporter asked “What was the difference between your first Iditarod and 16th, to make this a championship run?” Redington put it all on the dogs. “All year they kept up on every single run. I knew this team was very special. I saw it all year. Just incredible attitude.” I have to imagine he’s improved as a musher over the past decades, yet he gave all the credit to the dogs.
And his focus during the race? Exactly where it needed to be. “I tried not to think about winning – just tried to get down the trail happy and fast.” That is the way to enjoy Iditarod, and obviously the way to win.
Following close behind Redington were mushers Pete Kaiser, bib #33, in second and Richie Diehl, bib #15, in third. For the first time since 1974 the top three Iditarod finishers are Alaska Native – an important connection to the history and cultural significance of dog sled mushing. It was emotional and inspiring to watch these remarkable mushers, and their incredible dog athletes, arrive in Nome. Iditarod has a promising future in these three outstanding mushers.