WILLOW, Alaska (KFOR) – An Oklahoma native is set to take in one of the biggest challenges of his life.
Hal Hanson will battle the Alaskan wilderness and bitter cold to be one of the few who can say he won the Iditarod.
The race starts Sunday in Willow, Alaska.
“It’s been quite an adventure so far,” said Hal Hanson, a musher.
Hanson moved to Alaska back in 2014 after growing up in Stillwater raising livestock.
“Animal husbandry has been most of my life and this is a different form of it on a higher caliber. You’re dealing with the very best athletes in the world, when you get into long distance sled dogs,” said Hanson.
Hanson says racing sled dogs is something he’s dreamed about since he was young.
“That always intrigued me. I wanted to do something that is that difficult so to speak, ” he said.
Hanson says he’s cared for the 14 sled dogs who are a part of his team since they were puppies.
“They will do anything that I ask them to do. They’re such a great group of boys especially for just 2-year-old puppies you know,” he said.
This is Hanson’s first year as a musher, but he’s no stranger to the Iditarod.
“I have trained for other people, helped them been handlers for 3 other Iditarod teams,” he said.
He says this year will be a lot different compared to years past because of the pandemic.
Sled teams will not be able to go into the villages to rest and dry off due to fear of spreading the virus.
“Which kind of is a throwback to the old days, when this race first got started,” He said.
He believes the most difficult part will be the new trail this year, which goes over the Alaska range twice.
“You can’t understand. Nobody knows what it’s like coming back,” he said.
Hanson says he’s been overwhelmed by the support from family and friends in Oklahoma.
“I just want to say thank you to you guys for your support and we’ll do the best we can out there and have a good race,” he said.
Hanson says he has two goals, crossing the finish line and bringing home a team of happy and healthy dogs. According to the race’s official website, the man known as the “Father of the Iditarod” was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.
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