For Colleen Wallin, the grueling, 300-mile Beargrease sled dog race is a family affair

Two people pose with their dogs.
Mother and son, Colleen Wallin and Ero Wallin, pose at the finish line with their dogs. Colleen placed third and Ero placed fourth, just minutes apart.
Photo by Root River Photography

The 2022 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is officially over. Ten teams crossed the finish line in Grand Portage, Minn., Tuesday night after a grueling 300-mile race that began Sunday in Duluth, Minn. Fourteen other teams scratched, an unusually high number.

To talk about what it was like to run this year's race, host Cathy Wurzer was joined by Colleen Wallin, a musher from the Two Harbors, Minn., area who came in third place.

Wallin was in high spirits. “It was one of my most memorable John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathons ever,” she told Wurzer. “I just couldn’t be happier.”

Wallin loves hitting the trail — and so do her dogs. Sled dogs love racing, even for hundreds of miles, she said: “You don’t have to teach a sled dog how to run. You have to teach a sled dog how to rest.”

Musher crosses finish line.
Musher Colleen Wallin runs the 2022 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon to Grand Portage, Minn.
Courtesy of Root River Photography

According to Wallin, teams actually build their schedules for the race around running at night as much as possible. That’s when the snow on the trail is firmest and there are the fewest distractions.

A beautiful sunny afternoon is not a blessing in a sled dog race because of its effect on the dogs.

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“What do you want to do when it’s nice and sunny? Curl up and sleep in it, right?” Wallin chuckled.

Wallin’s 19-year-old son Ero also competed in the Beargrease marathon this year. He crossed the finish line shortly after Wallin did, finishing in fourth.

“I will never forget that hug” at the finish line, Wallin said.

Before the race, people asked Wallin: “Are you going to let [your son] pass you and let him finish ahead of you?” But she had no plans to go easy on Ero.

“When he was 5, I never let him win at Candyland, so I’m not going to start now,” Wallin said, laughing as she dispensed some tough love. “This is a life lesson.”

Musher crosses finish line.
Ero Wallin runs the 2022 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon to Grand Portage, Minn.
Courtesy of Root River Photography

Before saying goodbye, Wallin invited Wurzer out for a ride with her dogs.

“I’ll take you out on a sled run and your life will change,” Wallin said. “I’ll especially teach you how the poop shovel works.”

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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