A Pandemic Impacts the Race
The boys were about two weeks and 550 miles into the race. It was now mid-March and COVID-19 concerns continued to increase on a global scale. The world started to shut down borders, cancel airline traffic, and close businesses while unaware racers journeyed on bike, skis or foot on the Iditarod Trail toward Nome. Along with the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, it might have been the only sporting event still in motion at that time.
Even remote Alaskan villages weren’t left untouched. Only accessible by air or across hundreds of miles of roadless frozen terrain, villages started closing down to visitors. Along the coast, the villages of Shaktoolik, Koyuk and White Mountain asked trail users to completely bypass them. Schools and community centers, that normally served as drop bag locations and a warm recharge, shut their doors. In conjunction with the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, ITI organizers successfully scrambled to set up alternative locations.
Against the odds, kindness and comradery persisted.
After the school closed its doors in the small Yukon River village of Nulato, Brother Bob, a local Catholic priest, opened up his garage to athletes as they traveled through. He picked up George and Graham’s drop bags, provided a welcoming meal of moose soup, and offered the garage floor as a dry place to recuperate for the night.
Further down the trail, Joanna, a longtime trail angel in White Mountain, was under quarantine. Typically, she opens her home for racers to refuel and rest. Despite the circumstances, she left a picnic of hearty moose chili and fresh-baked bread for three lead racers to warm up and recover.