The 29th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon began on Sunday, March 10th, 2013 in Duluth, Minnesota. The race was scheduled to be run at the end of January but due to a lack of snowfall by a particular date the committee decided to postpone it. This in itself was not a Beargrease blunder but the dwindling number of racers over the years indicates other blunders.
I am by no means a mushing or Beargrease expert. I love dogs, I love the sport of mushing and mushers are some of the most awesome people you will ever meet. I am a business owner and know quite a bit about offering exceptional customer service. I also know I need to take care of my crew in order to be successful and to work cooperatively with others in my industry including my suppliers. In order to keep a good reputation I know I need to treat people fairly and be grateful for their contributions to my success.
Is the title, "Beargrease Blunders" a fair one? Maybe not but like I tell my children every day, "Life isn’t fair." As part of the crew who has put on Mush for a Cure for seven years I have had contact with quite a few suppliers, supporters, crew and mushers of the Beargrease. My interpretation from this contact is what I base my title on.
The top blunder of the Beargrease in my book is the fact the date chosen to postpone this year’s Beargrease to happened to be the same weekend as our Mush for a Cure on the Gunflint Trail. It isn’t that we lost some teams to the Beargrease that bothers me most but the fact no one from the Beargrease contacted any of us from Mush about the date. Did they need to get our permission to change the date to "our" weekend? Of course not but it would have been nice. It would also have been nice for them to ask our Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department if it would be too much to ask of them to perform trail and road crossing duties immediately after the busy Mush weekend.
Another Beargrease blunder is the lack of "customer service." Again, I’m not a musher and I have never ran the Beargrease nor have I directly sponsored or donated to the Beargrease. However, based upon discussions with others it doesn’t appear the organizers of the Beargrease as a whole treat people the way I would want to be treated. There are some expectations of gratitude and recognition that have not been met over the years.
Do I always meet the expectations of others? Of course not, I’m sure I don’t come close. However, the Beargrease is a beloved race that everyone wants to see be successful. It is a Minnesota tradition honoring John Beargrease and we cannot honor him by dishonoring those who are part of the Beargrease.
The race director was quoted in an article, ‘The 40 contestants taking part are half the total that competed in the last race, Olson said. "I just think that training conditions have been a challenge with the lack of snow," she said. "I don’t think the economy has helped much. So for lots of different reasons, we saw a drop in numbers this year."
I’m not sure what area lacked snow for training this year or that this year’s economy is worse than last year’s economy. I do know the numbers are down and if things don’t change then they will continue to drop lower. Let’s hope the Beargrease will make some improvements so the race can remain a tradition we can all be proud of.