…in the tiny fractions of a second, of which they had to plan their escape, it was not prowess of an athlete, that initiated their go-to plan, it was the mind’s imagination.
– Controlled by Our Imagination
I’m Wishing on a Star
by Rose Royce
by Kendall F. Person
The Iditarod is a grueling 1100 mile, competitive dog sled race, beginning in Settler’s Bay near Anchorage, ending 8 to 15 days later in remote Nome Alaska. It is a sport of endurance, nerve and speed, paramount to an off season Olympian’s version in survival of the fittest.
Alaska, also known as The Last Frontier: largest in territory, near bottom in population. 49th state to enter the union, and with only 55 miles of separation – compliments of the Bering Strait – Alaska marks the closest physical proximity, between USA soil and the Russian Federation. Its spectacular beauty is still held in awe, but no longer mysterious to the lower 48, as politics and Wasilla proved, that familiarity breeds contempt. Melting glaciers rise from clear waters; the crystal mountains weep (but we’ll always have Paris). Anchorage is cosmo, Juneau is beautiful, winters are dark and can be cruel with bitter, biting cold.
A vast stretch of untamed wilderness, rooted in rugged unforgiving terrain, guarded around the periphery by majestic mountain ranges, a natural stage, for when temperatures play unplugged: -50 below zero, feels like a torch. Yet inside the harsh bravado, lives the imagination of our childhood. and perhaps on especially lonely nights there is comfort in knowing, the Alaskan Interior is home to the city of North Pole.
In 1985, the Interior plunged to 65 below, clocking winds at 30 miles per hour, with heavy clouds, blocking out the starlight. Officials in Nome, begin spreading the word, regarding the Interior’s dangerous conditions, and urged all teams to find a safe place to spend the night.
For a moment, Libby Riddles born in Wisconsin, lives in Minnesota, pondered her straights, but she was not afraid and therefore not dire. She looked back, in the direction from which she came, no one could be seen in visibility nearing zero, but they were out there, and even her brief indecision, allowed them to make up time. She considered the risk, frostbite could settle in, or worse, if she lost the trail, and temperatures dropped further, there was a chance, she would not survive. But excitement proved contagious, upon noticing her team of sled dogs were up and ready,
Completely alone in the frozen tundra, and when the last vestibules of light gave way, she was covered in absolute darkness. Refusing to fret, she instead fortified her nerves; assembled her team, then a woman named Libby Riddles, zoomed into the Interior, in pursuit of victory, but no regrets in agony’s defeat.
On March 20 1985 – the following day – once she was spotted by an anxious, nervous crowd, sighs of relief followed by loud, thunderous applause. More than 6 hours ahead of her closest competitor, at the exact time Libby Riddles zoomed across the finish line, history cemented her name. Forever connected to the moment, that she became the first woman, to win The Last Great Race.
cover image by James Padolsey
as story told by Libby Riddles via sponsored programming
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