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Going the Distance for Nome’s Nanooks

The Iditarod Trail is famous for its annual sled dog race, but every year human athletes test their endurance on its expanse as well. The Iditarod Trail Invitational gathers bikers, cross-country skiers, and runners to race the 1000 miles from the Anchorage area to the famous burled arch in Nome. Alternatively, athletes can race a shorter 350-mile course from Anchorage to the city of McGrath on the Kuskokwim River.

Among those training for this year’s ITI 350 is Ryan Fox, cross-country coach at Nome-Beltz High School. Fox hails from Connecticut, so he is no stranger to winter, and he has been running for 14 years. Even so, he considers racing the interior of Alaska “wildly uncharted territory.”

As much as athleticism, the ITI is a test of survival and endurance. Competitors are allowed to carry only small, consumable necessities like food, hand warmers, and batteries. In addition to the essentials, Fox plans to pack his Nome-Beltz Nanooks jacket and hat to honor the team he currently coaches, as well as one that he hopes to coach soon.

Fox is raising funds to establish a track team at Nome-Beltz High School for the spring season. The Nanooks have not had a track team in over a decade, but he is resolved to make it happen. “I’m running for opportunities in Nome, for kids,” he says.

For his training, Fox runs 70-75 miles a week, ran an ultramarathon over Christmas break, and plans to run the perimeter of Manhattan. The ITI will begin in February.

Image at top: Ryan runs under the Aurora Borealis.
Image at bottom: Fox placed second at the Anchorage Turkey Trot with a 5:25 per mile pace. Photos courtesy of Ryan Fox, used with permission.

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