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Reflecting on the Gunflint Mail Run

Reflecting on the Race

Written by Snow Mountain Ranch Chaplain Steve Peterson

To donate to Mushing for Bethany, please click here.

I finished in seventh place in the Gunflint Mail Run earlier this month, and I am really proud of my dogs and my family who were there to help me along the way. A seventh place finish is really good, especially considering the circumstances. Halfway through the race, I was in 5th place, just 10 minutes behind the lead team when I discovered that Yukon, one of my hardest pullers had a sore muscle in his shoulder. I decided to drop him even though he may have been able to run, I didn’t want to injure him. This caused our speed to drop a bit, but I am very satisfied knowing that my dogs are fast and strong.  Some of the dog teams participating in the race are so good and they spend all their time training for events like this. We were in good company.

Today I would like to share with you more of a personal and emotional response to the race.

I’m pretty sure that Bethany’s death and illness aged me by ten years. People often think (even if on an unconscious level) that it’s now been over a year so I’m sure he’s getting over it.  You never get over it.  My life has changed forever and not for the better. I hope that one day I will be able to say, “This painful experience has made me stronger and a better person” but that is certainly not the case yet.  Every day is a struggle. I absolutely felt the aging effects of this experience while running the race. Running up the steep hills all night trying to finish strong and compete against middle-aged and even teenage competitors pushed me to the limit. When I was totally exhausted, I found strength by repeating the mantra, “this is for Bethany”.  In some respects I am a little like my sled dogs when they get old, they still desire to run and run at a high level, but their body cannot match their desire.

We met the goal of finishing the 65-mile race, and we finished with a respectable placement.  But as of yet, we have not met the goal of raising the $25,000 to create the endowment to honor Bethany’s memory and life.  For all who have donated I am so grateful and I thank you with every fiber of my being! Throughout my life and ministry, I have set and achieved many personal, professional, and ministry goals, but there is none more important to me than being able to establish this endowment to honor Bethany and to allow her life and story to continue to impact kids forever. The difficulty is that in order to achieve this goal I cannot rely solely on my own efforts and commitment. I must rely on others to help me achieve it. To everyone that I have served and walked alongside over the years I am asking; please help me achieve this goal. Perhaps you know others who would be moved by this story and want to help reach disadvantaged kids in perpetuity.

One of the major struggles I had during Bethany’s illness and her death was that I am her daddy and I am supposed to protect her, but I couldn’t.  This still haunts me, but I can make sure that her life and story continue to live on and impact many lives long after I am gone. With that in mind, I am considering running another marathon to continue this effort until we reach the goal.  I’ve thought this might be my dog sled racing farewell tour and commitment to finish strong.  Please help me achieve this goal.  I am grateful to everyone who has been a part of my life.

With deep love and gratefulness,

Chaplain Steven Peterson


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