FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The 2019 Iditarod is set to start on March second, and several big names will be returning to run the next edition of the race.
One of those competitors will be Lance Mackey, who will be making his first appearance in the race since 2016.
For the first time since 2016 Iditarod, one of the most famous names in Dog Mushing will be making his return. Lance Mackey has joined the field of competitors for the annual race from Anchorage to Nome, an event he has won four times in the past.
"The last attempt that I didn't finish hasn't left my mind. And I haven't been the same since... Not knowing what the problem was... And it finally dawned on me what the problem is. I owed my Dog Team... They did their part. I let them down. And I have unfinished business," said Mackey.
Mackey became a household name back in 2007 by becoming the first competitor to win the Iditarod and Yukon Quest in the same year, and then repeating that feat a year later. Health problems caused a dramatic finish to the Iditarod in 2015 and then he scratched from the 2016 race after a two of his dogs died on the trail. He has taken these three years away to rebuild and refocus his racing career.
"I still feel strong. I know I'm good at this. You don't have to have the fastest team to win the Iditarod. You don't have to be in first place to win the Iditarod. I just want to be running with my team, enjoy the moment, don't worry about the past, don't worry about the future. In the moment, enjoy the moment," said Mackey.
Mackey is no stranger to comebacks. He overcame throat cancer in the early 2000s, and he recently had surgery on his hands, which caused him major issues the last time he crossed the Nome finish line. After taking this time off, Mackey feels ready to get back to the race he loves.
"Things have changed for the better, and damn it, this is what I do. This is who I am. What I love to do more than anything in the world is race dogs... In that event... In this state. For me to say thank you to all those fans, my sponsors, my family, my dogs, my kennel help, everyone involved. The only way I know how to say thank you that is sincere, is to be in that event," said Mackey.