A New York mailman who for years dreamed of running the 1,168-mile Anchorage-to-Nome Iditarod Sled Dog Race woke up in Nome today, his dream a reality, but not one he wants to relive any time soon.
A team of huskies delivered Bob Hoyte to Nome’s Front Street late Tuesday, earning him the Red Lantern, the award given to the last musher to cross the finish line.
Hoyte, 42, of Ithaca, N.Y., made the rigorous trek across the roadless Alaska wilderness in 17 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes and 19 seconds. He reached Nome at 8:19 p.m. Tuesday, with a small crowd gathered at the finish line.
Joe Runyan, 40, of Nenana, Alaska, won the world’s longest sled dog race last Wednesday, making the journey in 11 days, 5 hours, 24 minutes and 34 seconds.
Hoyte may have been last, but he made it. Eleven of the 49 mushers, or sled dog drivers, who left Anchorage March 4 dropped out along the way.
Hoyte had his problems, especially at the end, but neither snow nor dark of night nor rough trails nor high winds stopped this mailman.
“That’s it,” Hoyte sighed, summing up his long-sought accomplishment and at the same time saying he had done what he set out to do and there was no burning desire for more.
Before the race started, Hoyte said, “When I first read about the Iditarod, a chill went up my spine and I knew that this was something I had to do. Now it has reached the level of an obsession. I must do this so I can get on with the rest of my life.”
Hoyte, who now plans to get on with the rest of his life, suffered a real chill in the final days of the Iditarod when strong winds began battering the final stretch of Bering Sea coast trail to Nome.
Although most mushers, including seasoned veterans, had an incredible two weeks of perfect weather with no storms, the slower-moving Hoyte got hit by winds before he could reach Nome. That held him up, and he holed up for a day in a cabin for protection a mere 40 miles from the end of the 1,168-mile Iditarod Trail.
Hoyte finally left the refuge of the shelter cabin and mushed into Nome with the temperature at 14 and the winds relenting to a mere 16 m.p.h., half what they were, for a 13-below-zero wind chill. He reached Nome 38th, a full day after the penultimate musher.