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Iditarod musher Jake Berkowitz, racing only against himself

Jake Berkowitz

“You’ve just got to play it as it goes,” Jake Berkowitz said. “I’m not here racing against any other dog team; I’m here racing to get to Nome as fast as possible with my dog team.”

The Anchorage-based musher caught up with KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen before the start of Iditarod 2014. Considering his reputation for exceptional dog care – he is, after all, a past recipient of the race’s humanitarian award – it’s not surprising that Berkowitz kept his first priority on his own dogs.

“There’s calculated risk to everything,” he said, “and we’re here to win the race, but I’m never going to sacrifice my dog team to win the race.” There’s “nothing more important than keeping your dog team together.”

At the same time, Berkowitz – who placed 8th in the 2013 Iditarod – told Laureli in Anchorage that, in 2014, he’ll be willing to drop dogs at checkpoints if it means a competitive advantage, rather than intentionally racing a 15- or 16-dog team straight through to the finish.

The competition is incredibly stiff, the musher concedes, and the trail looks to be rough, as well.

The challenge and the key question, Berkowitz says, will be “who can suck it up, hang on, and tough it out?”