What’s the “next page” of Jeff King’s story? No one – including King himself – fully knows the answer to that question. Nonetheless, it was still the primary topic of speculation earlier this week, when the four-time Iditarod champion crossed the finish line in Nome.
Before hitting the trail, King had said that 2010 would be his last Iditarod. At the finish line, he reaffirmed that decision, but he also noted that he “can’t imagine” walking away from the race entirely. (Just don’t expect him back, he says, as a competitor.) Regardless of his future within – or without – the Iditarod, King quipped that it was “a nice day to call it quits.”
The musher had slipped a few notches in the race standings. After leading the pack into the Yukon River checkpoints, he began taking longer rests than his two top competitors – Lance Mackey and Hans Gatt – allowing both mushers to pass him in the last few days of the race: Mackey at Kaltag, Gatt at Elim. King finished third on Tuesday afternoon, pulling under the Burled Arch at 5:22pm with a final race time of 9 days, 2 hours, 22 minutes, and 17 seconds – his fastest race time in his long Iditarod career.
King maintained an upbeat, relieved tone while talking to the media who greeted him in Nome: among them, our Iditarod reporter Laureli. He recalled some of the “great memories” from the trail – including listening to KNOM during his first championship run in 1993 – and described his 2010 race as his “grand finale.” King also took time to praise the other teams he encountered on the trail, describing them as “staggeringly capable.”
Hear Jeff King finish – perhaps for the last time – at the Burled Arch in Nome: