The Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race is reputed to be the most competitive mid-distance race and has a purse of $160,000. The last place finisher in 2019 reportedly received $8,000. The race starts in the town of Bethel and follows the Kuskokwim River and over frozen tundra to the village of Aniak and back to Bethel again. From listening to various mushers though, it’s not about the purse, it’s about competition, yes, but even more, it’s about being out in the natural world with their dogs.
On Friday, January 17, 2020 teams showed up in the early evening to prep their dogs for the race.
As is my custom I turned my camera to the crowds from time to time to capture the faces that were there to witness the event.
Around 6:30pm the teams started the race, being spaced by two minute intervals.
On Sunday morning crowds gathered as we learned that 2-3 teams would be arriving just after 8am.
Reigning Idatarod Champion Pete Kaiser would be the first to cross the finish line, winning his 5th K300 in 38 hours, 16 minutes. The first thing Pete did was to check in with his dogs, greet his family and fans, and he would prove most gracious in number post-race interviews.
While Matthew Failor would finish 2nd, he finished first in the story of love this year, pulling out a ring soon after crossing the finish line and getting engaged to Liz Raines, whom he met at the Iditarod in 2018.
At the end of the race, and after a life changing event, Matthew had the greatest look of satisfaction. It was a race well run.