John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

Kyle Krohn. All rights reserved.

The reporter turned Beargrease board member turned musher talks about his first (and possibly last?) marathon: the "terrifying moments," what he learned about himself, what happened to Ryan Redington's team, his next challenge (Grandma's Marathon this summer) and even media darling, Blowhole.

Rivers' Cross Photography

What happened to Ryan Redington?  And will he pull a repeat of 2017/2018 when he ran the course, made corrections, and roared back to a championship the next year?

Are the Frekings (with a one-two finish in the marathon for Blake and Jennifer and a 3rd/6th finish in the Cub Run for daughters Nicole and Elena) on the brink of a mushing dynasty?

And who gets the credit for Jason Rice's third place finish?  His team?  His coach?  Or the Rookie of the Year himself?

Lisa Johnson, 2019

Last year, Jason Rice, then vice-president of the Beargrease board, stepped up to first-place marathon winner Ryan Redington to shake his hand and congratulate him.

"You're gonna run this team next year," said Redington.

Fast forward 12 months and that's exactly what Jason Rice did, passing Redington with Redington's own dogs and taking the third place finish in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

Rice finished behind first-place Blake Freking and second-place Jennifer Freking.  Colleen Wallin has crossed the line in fourth place.

Manitou Crossing Kennels/Facebook

Nicole and Elena Freking will have some pretty good stuff to share at show-and-tell when they get back to school.

Their parents, Blake and Jennifer Freking, took first and second place in the 35th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

But the drama of this race, with a new, shortened course and new finish lines, is far from over.

Kyle Krohn. All rights reserved

UPDATE:  Blake Freking has won the 35th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon!

Lisa Johnson, 2019

The GPS trackers are back, Ryan Redington is in command of the race at this point (with Blake Freking in the number two position),  and veteran musher and race reporter John Stetson says it's a "dog race" between Frank Moe, Jason Rice and Jennifer Freking.

Lisa Johnson, 2013

When the windchills have our house dogs hiding under blankets and refusing to go outside, it’s easy to wonder if the sled dogs of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon wouldn’t rather be doing something else when it’s -30.

Lisa Johnson, 2019

For the first time in over five years, KUMD listeners didn't hear the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon broadcast live as it happens.

Ready, Get Set, Mush

Jan 27, 2019
Lisa Johnson

The 2019 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has begun.  With double-digit negative temperatures, crowds of spectators, mushers, dogs and all the Beargrease organizers and volunteers have gathered at Billy's Bar.  The 2019 race begins at noon, Sunday Jan. 27 with Northland Morning host Lisa Johnson reporting live from Meet the Mushers just down the Way at East End Auto and from the Start at Billy's Bar. She recommends bundling up and taking the shuttle. 

Lisa Johnson, 2014

One of the best parts of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is the Meet the Mushers event before the start of the race.

You can get your program signed, see the sled dogs up close, and it’s a great chance to ask questions about the race and the dogs.  Here’s a quick guide to enjoying the Beargrease, up close and personal.


Christopher Wodnicka. All rights reserved.

Nobody's ever gonna convince us that every puppy isn't the cutest.  Yup, when it comes to puppies, we believe they're all winners.  The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and Fitger's teamed up with KUMD this year to present the annual Cutest Puppy event.

So many puppies turned up, despite the bitter cold, organizers actually had to close the registration, but that didn't stop us from taking their pictures anyway. So much CUTE!

Lisa Johnson. All rights reserved.

Mike Keyport has nothing but praise for the way the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has kept the memory of his great-grandfather, John Beargrease, front and center.

But the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is undeniably excited about the change in the course this year that will bring the race finish right into their community.

KUMD is proud to present coverage of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon on 103.3 FM KUMD. 

KUMD will be at the Cutest Puppy Contest at Fitger's Inn on Saturday, January 26 at Noon and at the starting line at Billy's Bar, 3502 W. Tischer Road all morning leading up to the race start Sunday January 27 at Noon. 

Jason Rice

When Ryan Redington crossed the finish line at last year's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, several hours ahead of his closest competition, Beargrease board vice president Jason Rice came up to him to shake his hand.

"You're gonna run this team next year," said Redington.

And, by golly, that's just what second-time Beargrease competitor and 20-year race fan Rice is doing.

Brian Larsen/Cook County Herald

What's new for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon this year?   

A shortened course (and the possibility of some new strategies as a result), a new location for the race start and finish, some seasoned mushers taking part in the Beargrease for the first time and new rec race and junior musher entrants bringing fresh energy to the competition.  In addition, the connection between the race and its namesake, John Beargrease, is stronger than ever.