Keith Aili wins 2023 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon
So much for retirement.
Keith Aili, who just a few years ago was leaning toward retirement, is the winner of the 2023 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
Aili, a musher from Ray, Minn., has been a steady presence at Minnesota and Michigan sled dog races since the 1990s. He was leaning toward retirement in 2018, but has continued to race occasionally. A veteran musher, the 48-year-old Aili won the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in 2006. He also completed the Iditarod in 2002.
Defending Beargrease champion Ryan Anderson finished second in this year’s race.
Anderson, of St. Croix Falls, Wisc., also won the race in 2011, 2015 and 2017, in addition to last year.
The conditions were ideal for mushers in 2023. Temperatures were below zero for most of the race, including overnight lows of -21 degrees Fahrenheit Monday morning.
Beargrease, in its 39th year, is known as the longest sled dog race in the contiguous United States.
The Beargrease is a qualifier for the Iditarod, often considered the premier race for mushers. The Iditarod takes place in Alaska in March.
In more news from the race this year, musher Sarah Keefer finished third. Cook County mushers Matthew Schmidt and Mary Manning were among those who competed in this year’s John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Schmidt, the winner of the 2023 Gunflint Mail Run, took fourth place in this year’s Beargrease Marathon. Manning reached the Mineral Center checkpoint near the end of the race before scratching late in the day Tuesday.