ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Every year the Iditarod brings out the biggest names in mushing, and arguably one of the biggest names in the 2019 race will be Lance Mackey.
Musher Lance Mackey in Nome after winning the 2008 Iditarod.
From 2007 to 2010 Mackey enjoyed an unprecedented run of four-straight Iditarod wins and was the first person ever to win the Iditarod and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in the same year.
Mackey hasn’t had quite the same success in his past two Iditarods. He finished in 2015, but had two dogs die on the trail.
"I’ve unfortunately lost family members and friends and a lot of them were really close to me. None of them like my dogs,” Mackey told KTUU in 2016 at his Comeback Kennel in Fox, Alaska.
The struggles continued in 2016, when he scratched due to his health.
The 48-year-old has battled plenty of health obstacles in his career, beating throat cancer, and now battling Raynaud's disease, which causes poor circulation in his hands.
“I'm standing out here right now with no gloves on,” Mackey told KTUU before the Tustumena 200 in January. “Which is something I haven't been able to do in three or four years, even at these temperatures.” That day in Soldotna, temperatures hovered around freezing, and Channel 2 crews say it was raining.
Mackey is candid about his health, but doesn’t want to walk away from the sport he loves.
“I've been asked a million times, I've been asked once: Why am I running the Iditarod this year? And it's real simple: Because I can,” said Mackey.
Mackey feels he is in a better place to take on the 1,000-mile journey to Nome. Winning won’t be his top priority in 2019, but being a part of the race one more time.
“My mind's better, my body's better, my family's better, my dogs are great and I'm excited to go see some of the people along the Iditarod I haven't seen for years,” said Mackey.
The 2019 Iditarod will be Mackey’s 15th Iditarod since 2001.