Europe’s longest sled-dog race: Four women thrive in 2015 Finnmarksløpet

Photo: Dag Broch and Marcal Rocias Palau with their teams.

Dag Broch and Marcal Rocias Palau with their teams.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

On March 7, mushers and their hardworking sled dogs gathered in Arctic Norway at the start line of Europe’s longest sled-dog race—Finnmarksløpet. The challenging race is split into three distances—1,000 kilometers, 500 kilometers, and a 200 kilometer junior race—and can last anywhere from two days to over a week. The race starts at finishes in Alta, located at 70° N.

The race was also the world championship for sled dog racing this year, raising the stakes of the competition. But the competitors lived up to the pressure, and four dedicated and perseverant women secured victories.

For the second year in a row, Norwegian Sigrid Ekran won the 1,000 km race, becoming the first woman to win Finnmarksløpet two consecutive years. “A perfect musher in her prime” declares Finnmarksløpet.

This two-time world champion is known for taking exceptional care of her dogs and credits them as the real winners of the race. “Tusen takk, Ludvig!” said Ekran to her lead dog after crossing the finish line.

Photo: Dmitry Sharomov / Sigrid Ekran, world champion, celebrates with her dog, Ludvig.

Photo: Dmitry Sharomov /
Sigrid Ekran, world champion, celebrates with her dog, Ludvig.

Ekran had been in the lead almost the entire way from the last checkpoints in Øst-Finnmark all the way back to Alta and decided to take a courageous hour-long rest at Jokta, the last checkpoint. Ekran explains her racing philosophy: “My team and I always do the best we can. I want to reach the finish with a team that is in good spirits with the energy to rejoice over their wonderful achievement!” And sure enough, after the dogs had rested, Ekran and her team remained in the lead and took off with renewed energy to cross the finish line in first place.

Ekran’s fellow countrywoman, Elisabeth Edland, secured the victory in the 500 km race after securing the lead early on. “Anything can happen, but when I reached the edge at Vidda and headed down towards Alta, I knew that I was the world champion,” admits Edland.

And the veteran musher certainly has a reason to be confident! 2015 marks Edland’s third win at Finnmarksløpet; she also won the 500 km race in 2007 and 2011. “Grandmothers rule in this race!” declared the 56-year-old grandma after finishing the race.

But it’s not all about the veterans; Finnmarksløpet rookie Eveline Koch of Sweden came out in first in the Registered Nordic Breed (RNB) class of the 500 km race. This RNB class of pure breeds was included in Finnmarksløpet this year as a requirement of the International Federation of Sleddog Sports for world championship events.

“I’m happy. It’s been a difficult race with lots of wind,” states Koch, adding that the temperature has also been a bit too warm for her Siberian Huskies. “For me it is the dogs first, and then the race.”

The junior class race marked a historic event as 17-year-old Norwegian Anette Børve Hernes became the first ever junior world champion in long distance sled dog racing. The honor is “fantastic and indescribable,” comments Børve Hernes.

Each of these competitors, though diverse, demonstrated both remarkable perseverance and deep respect for their sled dogs throughout Finnmarksløpet, thoroughly earning the title of sled-dog racing world champion.

This article originally appeared in the March 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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