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Training for the Gunflint Mail Run

Training for the Gunflint Mail Run

Written by Chaplain Steve Peterson
To donate to the Bethany Adams Memorial Fund, CLICK HERE


Training for a race like the Gunflint Mail Run is a big commitment. We begin in late August by waking up at 3:30-4:00 am when the temperatures are the coolest of the day. It’s too warm during the other spring and summer months and during the daytime in late August. If the temperature is above 50 degrees, we don’t run the dogs because their health and safety are our first priority. After the early wake up, we have to load all 16 dogs into the truck and head to our training trails at Snow Mountain Ranch.

When we train before the snow falls, we use an ATV instead of a sled. It’s actually a great way to begin training because the dogs are so excited to run after a summer of relative inactivity. With the ATV, we have more control than you would on a sled, so it’s safer for the musher and for the dogs. The ATV also allows for better control of their speed which prevents the dogs from overdoing it before they’re conditioned. We run the ATV in a high gear to slow the dogs on level and downhill stretches and to assist them on the uphill pulls.

Once we arrive at the training trail, around 4:30 or 5:00 am, we make sure all of the lines are properly connected to the ATV. Once we’re sure they’re secure, we unload the dogs in the order they will go on the line to run, and get them all harnessed and placed in the line connected to the ATV. By now, the sound is deafening as their excitement to run is ready to explode. Finally, when they’re all hooked up and we release the ATV, the noise drops to silence. All of a sudden, all you hear is the dogs breathing as they run and focus on what’s ahead. It’s incredible to witness the pure, unbridled passion release into joy as they engage in the purpose of their existence. It is a numinous experience.

In August, the runs are fairly short because the dogs need to get back into the routine of running. We slowly build their endurance as the temperatures decrease and it’s cold enough for them to run safely. When the run is over, we get to love on each dog while giving them their favorite snack, frozen meat with as much water as they want. Once the dogs have eaten and have had water, we inspect their feet, remove their harnesses and place them back in their spots in the truck for the ride home. Once we arrive home, each dog is unloaded, given another snack, fed a full meal and given more water. Then, the poop is scooped and training for the day is done.


Steve Peterson is racing the Gunflint Mail Run to raise money for the Bethany Adams Memorial Fund, an endowment that will send an underprivileged kid to camp each year in perpetuity. To donate to the Bethany Adams Memorial Fund, CLICK HERE

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