Jim Lanier returns to 2020 Iditarod

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Veteran musher Jim Lanier will return to the Iditarod in 2020 after a hiatus last year.

“Things have changed completely,” said an excited Lanier over the phone Wednesday.

This past August, the Iditarod denied Lanier entry to the 2020 race. This caught the veteran musher by surprise, he said, since he had completed Iditarod qualifying races in 2019.

"There were some concerns with Jim,” Iditarod Race Marshall Mark Norman said in regards to the Iditarod’s decision to deny Lanier entry to the race. “We wanted to make sure he was able to take care of himself and his dogs."

Lanier, who hails from Chugiak, has scratched from his past four Iditarods.

Despite being denied entry, however, Lanier was able to requalify for the race as a rookie, and that’s exactly what he did: This past winter, the 79-year-old musher competed in the Kuskokwim 300 and the Willow 300, both of which are Iditarod qualifiers.

Shortly after his top-five finish at the Willow 300 in early February, Lanier was told he had made the cut for this year’s edition of the Last Great Race on Earth.

“They said, ‘You’re in,’ and since then, I’ve been in high gear preparing,” Lanier said.

Since February, Lanier’s been making sure his team is ready to race, including preparing 2,000 pounds of dog food for food drops. Even though his Iditarod prep got off to a late start, the confidence in his dog team hasn’t wavered.

"It's important for me to finish it, to continue to show people I can do it,” he said.

The late entry will cost Lanier $8,000, which is twice the cost of an early entry fee. The 2020 Iditarod will be Lanier’s 21st race.

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