Mike Williams Sr. finished his 15th Iditarod Sled Dog Race Friday afternoon in Nome, crossing the finish line at 3:35 p.m. with nine dogs. He is sort of a celebrity musher in the Iditarod. He has mushed for sobriety for decades and won his third Most Inspirational Musher award this year, also known as the “Musher’s Choice Award”. For that, he received an Iditarod Limited Edition Gold Coin, valued at $3,300.
Even though Williams finished in 45th place, a large group of fans greeted him as he made his way down Front Street to the finish line. Fans lined up on both sides of the orange plastic chute and still more gathered inside the chute near the burled arch. They included many Iditarod mushers, Iditarod officials, and people from the Bethel region.
Williams told them it was good to be done.
“It’s good to be here,” Williams said. “It’s been a long trip but I decided to really enjoy it. . .as much as I enjoy dog mushing, and I love it.”
Although it was Williams’ 15th Iditarod, it was the first time he ran it with his son, Mike Williams Jr. Jr. finished the race in 23rd place Wednesday.
“It’s awesome, I’m really happy to see him finish.” Williams Jr. said. “I’m really glad he made it. The dogs are looking pretty good. The ones that finished have pretty good weight and good appetites. They just went after their snacks.”
Williams Sr. said it was difficult to have two teams in the race. It required a lot of time, energy and money. And he jokingly told the crowd that it wasn’t his fault.
“I blame it on the dog,” Williams said. “And I look at these dogs and they want to run and they deserve to run the race like the Iditarod.”
Williams said the trail was great this year even though there was water, deep snow, and wind. He said his biggest challenge was his lead dogs.
“You know, they’re old retired leaders and they have their own way, like me,” Williams said, laughing. “You know, stubborn.”
Williams Sr. wouldn’t say exactly whether he would run the Iditarod again next year, but he did say he would be helping out his Akiak kennel all that he could. He also mentioned helping out the Iditarod Trail Committee.
“I’ll train and help along and hopefully ITC needs extra help, [then] I’m ready to help as a volunteer in any capacity,” Williams said.
Williams says he’s thinking about writing a book about keeping a subsistence dog team his whole life and running the Iditarod 15 times.