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24-ing in Takotna: Johnson and Berington

audio by Laureli Kinneen; text by David Dodman

“Don’t run too fast” seems to be the mentality of many mushers on this year’s Iditarod trail. At times, the trail has lent itself to fast racing, but experienced competitors, like Unalakleet’s Paul Johnson and Kasilof’s Kristy Berington, have preferred to let their teams keep a measured pace. For Johnson – and many of the other mushers we’ve featured today (Wednesday) – the first half of the race has been a time to “take it easy.”

As of the Wednesday night, a huge chunk of mushers – including Berington and Johnson – are in Takotna, where they’ll have ample time to “take it easy”: a full day, in fact, as dozens of mushers are taking their 24-hour layover there. (Indeed, Takotna may be this year’s musher favorite for a 24-hour layover spot.)

KNOM trail reporter Laureli Kinneen is in Takotna, too, and caught up with the two veterans Wednesday afternoon.

Paul Johnson calls his 2011 Iditarod run the “ride of my life”; he seems happy with his dogs’ performance and the outlook of his team. He talked to Laureli about the crucial assistance provided by his brother (2010 musher William Johnson), the sit-down sled (a “Hans Gatt special”) that he’s now riding down the trail, and his plans for 24 hours in Takotna:

Kristy Berington, also, is “24-ing” (taking a 24-hour layover) at Takotna. Like Johnson, she’s happy about her position in the race standings (30th at the time of writing), and she’s especially happy that her dogs are happy. Amid warm weather and tricky trail conditions – both of which are non-ideal for Iditarod’s athletes – she speculated as to what’s keeping her dogs in especially good shape:

As of Wednesday night, both Kristy Berington and Paul Johnson remain in 24-hour layovers at Takotna, both with 14 dogs. Berington is in 30th position, Johnson in 34th, and both mushers will be eligible to depart Takotna and begin the run to Ophir mid-Thursday morning.