Minnesota woman wins Beargrease dogsled half-marathon

Jan. 30—FINLAND, Minn. — A Grand Marais, Minnesota, woman handily won the John Beargrease half-marathon, a 107.5-mile sled dog race through Northeastern Minnesota snow and woods.

Joanna Oberg

was the first to cross the finish line at the Trestle Inn, about 20 miles northeast of Finland, Minnesota, shortly before 4 a.m. Monday, Jan. 30. The race took her 15 hours, 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

The second place finisher,

Nick Turman,

of Two Harbors, finished the race in 15 hours, 13 minutes and 15 seconds.

Rita Wehseler

, a Tofte dog racer who boasted that her team was all-female as she embraced well-wishers and posed for a few photos after her finish, came in third with a time of 17 hours, 18 minutes and 38 seconds. Michigan-based musher

Lynn Witte

took fourth place, completing the race in 17 hours, 30 minutes and 38 seconds.

Competitors in the half-marathon, as well as a 35-mile race that concluded Sunday afternoon and a 302-mile marathon that was still ongoing, left from Billy's Bar in Duluth on Sunday morning.

Oberg held a relatively sizable lead during the final leg of the half-marathon. The win, she told reporters moments after crossing the finish line in the blistering cold, was a long time coming.

"It was definitely a magic carpet ride," she said. "The dogs just wanted to keep rolling, so I just tried to keep up."

Oberg splits her time between Grand Marais winters and northwest Ontario summers. Beargrease, she said, is something like a hometown race.

She chose both of her lead dogs — Nikita and Tamar, their muzzles ringed with frost — for the Frank Bishop Lead Dog Award, named after a longtime Beargrease volunteer and racing enthusiast who died in 2015. The award, made each year and presented by Patty Prudden, another longtime volunteer at the races, is meant to honor teams with the same qualities as Bishop: never-ending passion, drive and start-to-finish perseverance.

Oberg said Nikita and Tamar showed a lot of heart and drive. "And they're very fast dogs," she said with a chuckle.