Three-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Susan Butcher pressed for the lead in the Anchorage-to-Nome race early today as a mob of rested mushers sprinted for this Kuskokwim River community.
Butcher pulled out of Nikolai early today and was expected in McGrath, 407 miles into the 1,168-mile race, at mid-morning. She was followed by Martin Buser.
Joe Runyan was the first musher to reach McGrath Tuesday afternoon, but he hadn’t taken his mandatory 24-hour rest.
To complete the layover requirement, he could not leave town until 4:43 p.m. today. Butcher took her 24-hour layover in Rohn and could leave Runyan behind. The next 18 mushers behind Butcher also have completed their layover requirement.
Butcher said she believed the frantic pace Runyan set had sapped his dogs. “It took him 15 hours to cross the (Farewell) Burn,” she said. “It took me only 10.”
Butcher blitzed into Nikolai, 359 miles into the race, just before midnight Tuesday. Buser, four-time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson, DeeDee Jonrow, Joe Redington and Joe Garnie pulled in behind her within minutes.
From McGrath, 761 miles remain in the race.
Runyan said he was running his own race and was trying not to dwell on the progress of his competitors.
Mushers are vying for a $250,000 purse, with $50,000 going to the winner. Forty-nine mushers left the Iditarod starting line Saturday in Anchorage. Norman Vaughan, Roger Roberts and Jan Masek, all Alaskans, have dropped out.