There’s a dog race that starts in early March at Anchorage and ends in Nome. It’s called the Iditarod and is described as the last great race in the world. Typically 70-90 mushers enter with a team of 14-16 dogs. The race is run over 1,100 miles (1,830 kms), takes between 9 to 29 days to complete and was first held in 1973 to celebrate the heroic performance of a group of mushers who delivered serum to Nome in 1925 to combat a diphtheria epidemic that was killing kids.
Alaska is one of (if not THE) most beautiful places on the planet but it can deliver weather that is absolutely brutal. One musher describes the race as “buying front row tickets to the freezing over of hell.” Ambient temperatures of -40 to -50 degrees, winds of 80 to100 mph, wolves and moose to contend with, huge mountains to cross, razor sharp ice and deep snow to plow through, much of the race run at night or in blizzards with little or no visibility, hardly any sleep for weeks and a bunch of dogs who would rather be fighting or having sex! Does that sound like a fun thing to do on your next vacation?
In 1975 a guy named Norm Vaughan entered this race. He was 70 years old! He didn’t make it to Nome that year or the year after when he took a wrong turn, which is very easy to do, and was lost for 4 days in the Alaska Range. Race officials and friends tried to talk him out of re-entering the race but he refused and in 1978 he finally made it to Nome.
Over the next 11 years he ran the race 8 more times and achieved his fourth and last official finish in 1990 at age 85! It took him 21 days, 10 hours and 26 minutes, the winner that year was a tough lady named Susan Butcher who did it in 11 days, 1 hour. What’s amazing is that in order to attend to his dogs’ paws with ointment and booties (an essential part of the process) he had to literally drag himself along the ice and snow on his belly because he had bad knees. He attempted to run it again in 1992 at age 87 but scratched …. hello!
Here’s another story.
Tom Dempsey was born in Milwaukee in1947 with only half a right foot and a stub of a right arm. Despite his disability, as a young boy he had a burning desire to play (American) football at the highest level. Given his affliction, any reasonable assessment of his prospects would be that he has little to no chance of playing even a friendly neighborhood pick-up game let alone participating in the professional league
But failure was never an option for him. He was so firm in his resolve to play competitive football that his parents had a special artificial wooden foot made for him. He practiced kicking the football with his wooden foot hour after hour, day after day. Eventually he succeeded in playing for 5 NFL franchises as a kicker and to this day he holds the record for the longest kick in NFL history: a 63 yard field goal that won the game for the New Orleans Saints against the Detroit Lions (19-17) in the last 2 seconds of the game before a crowd of 66,910 people.
I’m sharing these stories with you because they’re good examples of determination, resolve and perseverance. You might not have in mind setting off on a dog sled to Nome or spending your time in the backyard kicking a football but you might like to recall these stories the next time you’re confronted by a challenge that seems too hard or contemplating a goal that is too lofty. As Napoleon Hill once said “what your mind can conceive and believe you can achieve.” Knowing what your ultimate goal is and doing whatever it takes to achieve it is the key to success–it’s that simple