Photos: The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon gets under way

People & Places ·

1 Mid-distance musher Natalie Harwood, of Iron River, Wis., spots some fans in the crowd, as she leaves the starting line. The veterinarian technician has been mushing for over a decade. 
2 Musher Nathan Schroeder, of Chisholm, Minn., checks out his dog team at the starting line of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Schroeder was the winner of the 2010 race. 
3 Colleen Wallin, of Two Harbors, Minn., takes off with her team of Alaskan Huskies. She has participated in the Beargrease since 1995. 
4 An excited dog from the team that belongs to marathon musher Odin Jorgenson of Grand Marais, Minn. Jorgenson calls the Beargrease the "Super Bowl of distance mushing in the Lower 48." 
5 Marthon musher Zoya DeNure at the starting line of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. A former resident of Black River Falls, Wis., DeNure worked for several years as an international runway model. She now owns and operates a kennel in Delta Junction, Alaska. 
6 Marthon musher Frank Moe, of Hovland, Minn., talks with one of his dogs as he prepares the team for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Moe served in the Minnesota House from 2004 to 2008 as a DFL representative from Bemidji. Last month Moe lost one of his dogs when a pickup truck collided with his sled in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during a sled dog race. Moe was not injured in the accident. 
7 Frank Moe heads back to his sled after checking his dogs at the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. 
8 Marathon musher Blake Freking, of Finland, Minn., wearing No. 4, on right in blue, is helped with his team by his wife Jen Freking, on left, and Thea Schneider, in pink. Both Jen Freking and Schneider were also mushers in the mid-distance marathon. Freking started racing in 1998, and finished his first Iditarod Race in 2000. 
9 Mid-distance musher Thea Schneider, of Finland, Minn., takes off for her first-ever race. Schneider moved from Maine to spend a year handling dogs for Blake and Jen Freking. She was wearing pink to support "Mush for a Cure," raising awareness for breast cancer research. 
10 Mid-distance musher Jen Freking, of Finland, Minn., heads out on the trail, after helping to get her husband Blake Freking, and her dog handler Thea Schneider out on the trail first. 
11 Mid-distance musher Michael Bestgen, of St. Cloud, Minn., reaches out to a fan in the crowd, shortly after leaving the starting line of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Bestgen has been mushing for 14 years. 
12 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon race official Michael Levig, left, holds onto a lead dog from the team of mid-distance musher Steven McBryar, of Chattanooga, Tenn. Racing sled dogs spend a lot of time being tied up, and when they are at the starting line of a race, they know they will soon be able to run. They sometimes need up to a dozen handlers to calm them down. 
13 Mid-distance musher Steven McBryar, of Chattanooga, Tenn., gets ready at the starting line of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, as dog handlers hold onto his dogs and race official Michael Levig, center, looks on. 
14 Billy Koecher, of Mahtowa, Minn., rides in a sled as his father, Adam, takes control of their dog team. Billy has cerebral palsy, but he and his father train together, and the Beargrease officials gave permission for Billy to ride the first part of the race. The pair left the starting line with loudest cheers heard that day. 
15 Billy Koecher, of Mahtowa, Minn., rides in the sled as his father, Adam, drives at the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. 
16 Mid-distance musher Thea Schneider, of Finland, Minn., heads into the woods to the cheers and applause of onlookers.