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24 Hour Layovers Underway, Decisions on Where to Stop Split

Wade Marrs' Lead Dog Before Leaving Nikolai. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM (2020).

McGrath is certainly not as popular as Takotna when it comes to choosing a checkpoint for a 24-hour layover. The majority of the 2020 Iditarod mushers blew through McGrath in favor of Takotna, Ophir, and some even pushed onto Cripple before stopping.

Wade Marrs, looking for a fourth top ten finish, was the fourth musher into McGrath on Tuesday, but he chose to stay while the other leaders left him behind in the deep, cold snow. Marrs says he’s okay with that. He had a plan to stop for 24 hours in McGrath.

“The goal is to win, but we don’t have a lot of speed, so if someone else in the race keeps their speed up and keeps their dogs moving just as much, then… it’ll be impossible to beat them, I guess. But you know the fastest team doesn’t always win the race.”

– Wade Marrs

The seven-time Iditarod finisher left McGrath at 11:36 p.m. with all 14 dogs. He now hopes to catch up with the leaders before they finish their layovers, and widen the gap between Marrs and first position.

“It’s a little bit earlier than some of the other ones (checkpoints), but everyone’s got a different strategy, and it’s pretty quiet here in McGrath for them (mushers) to take a 24-hours, so I think it’s a good spot for it.”

– Wade Marrs

Race judge, Charley Bejna, a five-time Iditarod finisher, thinks it’s entirely plausible that Marrs could rejoin the front of the pack.

“For him (Wade Marrs), I think obviously he’ll probably blow through Takotna because he’s done a 24-hour here (McGrath). [He’ll] probably go through Ophir, and maybe camp on the way to Cripple, or maybe make it to Cripple. I guess it depends on how they (the dogs) look, but I think Wade is in a good spot right now.”

– Charley Bejna

Robert Redington, like most humans, is a creature of habit. During an afternoon feeding, Redington explained that’s partly why he chose to stop in McGrath for his mandatory 24-hour layover.

“Well I know this checkpoint pretty good, so that made it easy for me.”

– Robert Redington

Redington was not alone in picking the earlier checkpoint rather than waiting until further down the trail to take the long rest. Jessica Klejka of Bethel, who is running her second Iditarod, says McGrath is the only Iditarod stop where she’s spent 24-hours before.

“I really like being on the Kuskokwim. I’m from Bethel. I always say that’s the reason, but convenience, it’s (McGrath) easy, I know where everything is. I heard Takotna is great, but I don’t know it yet. I know the routine here, so I can just beeline for the bathroom, or run and grab my drop bags, or whatever I need”

– Jessica Klejka

Klejka’s 24-hours will be up before 9am this morning. She says she then plans to make a straight run from McGrath to Ophir or beyond before she rests again. That’s also the plan for Marrs and Redington.

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