Waerner claims victory in Iditarod 2020

Thomas Waerner on the trail in Anchorage during the ceremonial start of Iditarod 2020. Photo by Mary Pemberton for The Cordova Times

Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner, of Torpa, Norway, arrived in Nome at 12:37 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18, to capture the championship in the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Waerner, who has won eight international sled dog racing medals and the 2019 Finnmarkslopet, the longest sled dog race in Europe, told race marshall Mark Nordman it was a dream come true. He arrived over the trail in nine days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds.

During his only other Iditarod race in 2015, he claimed rookie of the year honors. A total of 26 mushers have now completed the race in under 10 days.

Waerner, who runs an electric company with 14 employees, and his wife Guro, a veterinarian, are the parents of five children. When not working or mushing dogs, according to his Iditarod biography, he enjoys “old muscle cars — especially Mustangs.”

He is part of the QRILL Pet Mushing Team, the world’s first professional long-distance sled dog team with the goal of advancing pet nutrition and championing new research to increase the health and happiness of canine athletes.

Waerner was being trailed at a distance by nine other race veterans who had left White Mountain by the afternoon of March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, led by another Iditarod champion, Mitch Seavey, of Seward. The rest of the top 10 pack included Jessie Royer, Fairbanks; Brent Sass, Eureka; Aaron Burmeister, Nome; Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Rana, Norway; Paige Drobny, Cantwell; Ryan Redington, Skagway; Wade Marrs, Willow; and Travis Beals, Seward.

A total of 57 mushers began the race in Willow on March 8, but as of March 18 only 44 were still on their way to Nome, several of them in the best interest of their team, but others for health reasons and two because of a death in their family.

The race was also impacted this year by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which results in smaller crowds at checkpoints and postponement of the meet and greet and finishers banquet at Nome, now to be held at a later date.

The race ends when the last musher crosses under the burled arch at Nome to claim the Red Lantern.