The Last Great Race on Earth
In the frigid Alaskan air, the sound of a dog sled team mushing through the snow may be the only noise in a land covered in silence and cold.
Edmond native Patrick Beall says nothing exists that is quite as pure as traveling over 1,000 miles in the wild lands of Alaska with a team of dogs as your only companions in wide open vistas of one of America’s last wild places. In 2015 or 2016, Patrick will join intrepid explorers and racers from the past as he attempts his first shot in one of the longest and most grueling races known to man—the Iditarod.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a long-distance sled dog race which is run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Mushers take a team of 16 dogs on the race to cover 1,049 miles in 9 to 17 days. Started in 1973, The Iditarod now lures in more than 50 racers and is known as the “last great race on Earth.”
Patrick, 24, felt the call of the wild when he was learning about the Iditarod in grade school at Cross Timbers Elementary in Edmond. The attraction to the race remained with him after his graduation from Edmond North High School and from the University of Oklahoma in 2011. His soul belonged to the outdoors, and he promised himself he would spend as much of his life as he could working, living and playing in the open air.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors, and when I got out of college, I decided to do everything I could to stay outside,” he said. Everything included helping South Americans set up a bird research field site in Lawton and working as a logger and tree climber in Maine. “I wanted to stay outside as long as possible.”
Upon returning to Oklahoma, Patrick got a job offer from a local oil company, but instead took less pay to join Living Lands & Waters, a nonprofit with the mission of cleaning up rivers in America. Living on a barge on the Mississippi River, Patrick was back in the open air, this time traveling from Tennessee to Minnesota on the Ol’ Man river. “I loved it,” he said. “I left in 2012, because someone said I should work at a lodge in Alaska.”
Following the currents of the wind, Patrick packed up for Bettles Lodge in Bettles, Alaska, where he worked as an outdoor guide, helped field planes in, set up hunter camps and more. He also got his first chance to work with the famous Alaskan sled dogs.
“Working with the dogs rekindled my interest in the Iditarod,” Patrick said. “I thought, That would be so wild, so cool. The lodge had 10 sled dogs and I volunteered to care for them. I taught myself mushing.”
Mushing, or working with a sled dog team, isn’t an 8-to-5 job—it’s 24 hours a day. But those days brought Patrick into the pack and gave him a passion for working with animals that are more wolves than hounds. “It’s a lifestyle, not a job. You never stop working.”
The dream of racing the Iditarod took an icy hold of Patrick, and he knew that if he wanted to race, he would need to return to Alaska. He had met Dallas Seavey when he lived in Alaska, and he knew that the Iditarod winner was who he needed to contact.
In 2012, Dallas Seavey was the youngest musher to win the race and is the third generation in his family to race. Mitch Seavey, Dallas’ father, won in 2004 and 2013, and Dan Seavey, Dallas’ grandfather, was one of the organizers of the first races. While Dallas was the youngest musher to win the race, his father was the oldest when he won in 2013 at the age of 53.
“I called and bugged him until he told me to come out,” said Patrick. “He wanted a guy to help him with dog training and to get me in as a puppy team. We do 200- and 300-mile practice runs together, and once the season progresses, we’ll put more miles on the dogs. These dogs are amazing—they run thousands of miles a year.”
The training is endless. Patrick currently helps train the puppies to start working as a team and on a harness. Although he isn’t able to qualify for the 2014 Iditarod, he plans to race in either 2015 or 2016 as a B Team for Seavey.
“I love the dogs so much, and I love the sport,” he said. “There is nothing like being in the middle of nowhere in the dead quiet with just me, the dogs and nature. Life is never as pure as when you’re running the teams. The dogs are almost wolves; they are Alaskan huskies—specialized mutts bred and evolved for racing.”
For Patrick, life couldn’t be any better. “I never regretted my decision, not once,” he said. “I don’t make much money, but I’ve lived in the most beautiful places and I’ve met amazing people. I have endless opportunities to be outside.”
In a few years, Patrick will be among the mushers covering over 1,000 miles in the coldest weather possible. The freezing temperatures and the ice in his beard won’t bother the Oklahoma native. “Part of the reason I do this is that I’m infatuated with battling the elements—putting my mind and body to the test,” he said. “I love the way my face and beard feel with ice on it—it helps me remember why I’m here.”
To help support Patrick’s race to the Iditarod or to learn more about the dog sled race, contact Patrick Beall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is your number one fan?
A potential candidate
So proud of you, too. Love you, G'Ma
I am so proud of you ...GO FOR IT!!!!