Jamaica Tackles a Dogsled Team

(Photo by Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News/MCT, via Getty)
(Photo by Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News/MCT, via Getty)

The Iditarod is one of the most rigorous, cold-weather races in the world. So how did Newton Marshall, a resident of Jamaica, end up in the competition?

It takes a certain kind of person to compete in the Iditarod, known as “The Last Great Race on Earth.” While the infamous dogsled competition draws in mushers from all over the world, they tend to be from the colder climes—Norway, Canada, Sweden, and the northern states of the U.S. But one musher this year was a seemingly improbable contender: Newton Marshall hails from St. Anne, Jamaica.

Known to his fans as the Mushin’ Mon, the 30-year-old Marshall ran the 975-mile Iditarod in just under 12 days and six hours, finishing 43rd out of 49 (with an additional 20 competitors having scratched or withdrawn from the race). This was Marshall’s second Iditarod, having finished 47th in the race in 2010. His team ran in some of the toughest conditions in memory, and he even helped save a fellow musher, Scott Janssen, who had been seriously injured in a remote area of the trail.

But in many ways, the route from Anchorage to Nome was almost the easy part. The sponsors who had supported Marshall’s first Iditarod run had long disappeared, so he raised money through small donations on Facebook (and continues to do so), assembled a team with dogs borrowed from other mushers, and even overcame his marginal literacy to raise money for a literacy fund in his native Jamaica. Marshall wasn’t one of the fastest mushers, but when it comes to the Iditarod, merely finishing is a true accomplishment.

We spoke to Marshall after he finished the race about how he got his start, the first time he encountered real winter, and if he plays favorites.

Why did you decide to run the Iditarod?

First and foremost, there is no other black man in this race, and I’m the only Jamaican in it. It’s kind of different from my tropical island.

How did you get started?

I worked for a company in Jamaica that did horseback rides, and they were going to start a dog sled tour using a two-passenger, three-wheeled rig because, of course, there’s no snow in Jamaica. I said “Yeah, mon.”

And then they started the Jamaica Dogsled team, and they wanted to send us abroad to do races. Me and a different guy, he did the sprints and I did the distance.

The rest of the team is no more, but I continued because I got deeply involved, and I love the sport.

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SOURCE: Allen St. John 
The Daily Beast

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