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Yellowknife’s Marcel Marin wins six-dog race at Canadian Challenge Dog Derby

Whenever you start last in a staggered-start race, it feels as if you’ll never catch up.
Marcel Marin crosses the finish line first to win the six-dog race at the Canadian Challenge Dog Derby in La Ronge, Sask., late last month. Photo courtesy of Canadian Challenge Dog Derby

Whenever you start last in a staggered-start race, it feels as if you’ll never catch up.

But Marcel Marin didn’t just catch up. He surpassed almost everyone.

The Yellowknife dog musher is back from La Ronge, Sask., after competing in the Canadian Challenge Dog Derby late last month and ended up as the winner of the six-dog 50-mile event. He crossed the finish line in a time of four hours and 12 minutes and ended up going so fast, he caught up with all the eight-dog racers and even some mushers in the 10-dog main event.

Even the race tracker, which kept tabs on all the mushers out on the various courses, couldn’t keep up with the pace that Marin’s team was putting up.

Marin said his dogs did better than even he expected.

“The mushers were leaving in three-minute intervals and we left last,” he said. “We caught everyone in our division, then the eight-dog racers. I thought if we did five hours, that would be good. But my old team just kept up the pace and they were amazing.”

If you do the math, you’ll see Marin’s pace was nearly 13 miles per hour. In terms of dog mushing, that’s fast, and he said part of the reason why his dogs ran so well was because of the trail conditions.

“The trail was immaculate and it was colder down there than it is here,” he said. “My leader is an older dog, nine years old (Knuckles), and he was doing great. I had one dog near the back looking back at me, almost asking how much longer, but he got over the finish line.”

Marin also said the dogs were working harder in training back home because of the snowfall over the last little while and the warm-up for the dogs happened out on the course.

“They were on the truck for about four days and that’s a long time for the dogs,” he said. “They didn’t get to trot at all and they had to get into it while out on the run. We haven’t been able to do a lot of distance training because of the weather and dogs won’t run unless they’re properly trained. But this group has run together for many years and they just know to keep on going.”

Marin is one of the main organizers for the Under Dog 100, an annual derby which he said is designed for small-kennel owners. That’s scheduled to get underway just outside of Yellowknife on March 24 and there will be some international flavour for this year’s race. Some of the confirmed racers are making the trip in from California and New Zealand with the big draw being Jeff King of Alaska, a four-time champion of the Iditarod.

About the Author: James McCarthy

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