ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The younger Seavey is sitting out this year’s race and running Norway’s Finnmarkslopet, which begins March 9, instead. But Mitch, the three-time champion who has twice set the record of being the oldest Iditarod champion, in 2013 and again in 2017, is one of just three former champions in this year’s race.
The Iditarod re-start in Willow, Alaska.
“There might be three in this race, but there’s only a handful in history anyway,” Martin Buser, one of those three, and himself a four-time Iditarod champion, told Channel 2 Thursday morning at the mushers’ mandatory meeting.
He’s right – in the race’s 46-year history, there have been only 20 individual champions. When you go back the last 30 years, to 1988, there have been only 11 individual champions, five of whom won four races each in that time span (Buser, Doug Swingley, Lance Mackey, Dallas Seavey, and Jeff King), and two who have overall won four or more, but won their first races before 1988 (Susan Butcher and Rick Swenson, the race’s only five-time champ).
King, Bib No. 40 this year, is the third former champion in this year’s race, and besides Seavey, has the most recent win of the trio, in 2006.
“Clearly there’s a changing of the guard,” King told Channel 2 Thursday morning. “I turned 62 this month, and so some of the other champions have stepped aside as they move on to what they’re going to do in retirement or another part of their life. I’m just thrilled that I’ve been blessed with such good health because I feel as fit as ever,” he said.
And in the Iditarod, maybe age is nothing but a number.
Buser, who drew Bib 28 Thursday night, said “I haven’t really come up with a clever (saying) with that number yet, other than 28 is how old I feel.” The musher will turn 60 later this month. When asked why he keeps running, Buser said, “I just keep coming up with a great dog team, and I hope to be able to do them justice on the trail.”
For Seavey, the defending champion, the thought of being “oldest” isn’t one that appeals to him. When asked about setting the record for being the oldest and the fastest, he quipped, “I don’t know about the oldest part, but I like the fastest.”
The 58-year-old is excited for the 2018 race. “We’re rocking and rolling,” he said of his dog team. “The team is amazing, the training’s been great.”
And looking ahead to this year’s race along the Southern Route, which due to lack of snow hasn’t seen Iditarod mushers since 2013: “Part of the country that we’re going to travel is less traveled by other people in the winter, so a little bit slower, a little tougher route,” he said. “We haven’t been on this route since 2013, which, I have to mention, I won that year,” Seavey said.
“So I’m looking forward to the southern route.”