How Russia Beat America At The Iditarod

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Don’t get me wrong.  The Iditarod is fantastic.  What could capture America’s imagination more than a dogsled race up there in the almost foreign and non-contiguous lands of Alaska?

What if I told you that Russia beat the Iditarod?  Not by a mile, but by about 500 kilometers?

Russia also has a major dogsled race, the Beringia.  The race takes place among the stunning landscapes of Kamchatka, together with its harsh climate.

I have kept tabs on the Beringia in recent years, as I have acquaintances both among the racers and support staff.  The main thing I have understood from these Russian friends is that the race started as more of a personal initiative, but continues to grow from year to year, and now is supported by the government and some major sponsors, who cover not only the costs of logistics, but also the prize money.

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Beringia participant Andrey Semashkin, photo from his wife, Anastasia’s Instagram @semashkina_anastasiia

The other point I hear from my Russian friends is that the Beringia is much more difficult than the Iditarod, partially because it is more simple.  During the Beringia, local villages will greet the racers as they arrive- it is for them the event of the year.  But on other stages, there is no village to spend the night and the Beringia participants will spend the night huddled in a cramped hunter’s cabin, or even burrowed into the snow nearby.

It was decided that the 2018 Beringia would be an attempt for a world record, becoming the longest dog sled race in history, coursing through the entire peninsula of Kamchatka and ending in the Chukotia region.  This for a total of 2,100 kilometers.

My American friends, the Iditarod is “only” 1,688 kilometers.  And Russia beat us.

Russia Today was there to record the attempt at the record, and they did a fabulous job of capturing the breathtaking scenery of Kamchatka and the victory that each participant experienced by simply making it through the harsh conditions to the finish line.

We meet Alisa, a young 18-year old lady, who is attempting the Beringia for the first time to Vyacheslav Demchenko who flew in from Moscow with his dog team.  There are two participants who have both won the Beringia multiple times, Andrey Semashkin and Valentin Levkovsky.  And there are participants who are using the traditional dogsled systems, such as Gennady Tomilov, who won the honorary award   “For Staying Loyal To The Traditions Of The North”.

So, the friendly competition is on America.  It’s time for the Iditarod to up its game!

And from the warmth and safety of your home, I invite you to travel to the other side of the earth this evening, to watch this report of some of the most amazing people on earth, together fighting through one of the most difficult, and beautiful places on the planet.

Because although I often find international competition to be less than constructive and banal at best, I think the Beringia/Iditarod comparison is a positive and notable exception.  Watch and let me know what you think.

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