In a historic feat, brothers Joseph and Israel Hale are the first-ever snowmachine team with a disability to finish the 2,600-mile Iron Dog race in the pro-class.
Although the team was last at the finish line, they were the first to the Nome halfway checkpoint. “We were coming into Nome, and I hadn’t done a lot of praying that we could win or anything like that, but I was like, ‘Lord, keep these snow machines running; we’d really like to be first into Nome today.’ And he answered my prayer by 18 seconds, so you can’t beat that,” Joseph Hale told listeners after arriving in Nome.
Joseph’s younger brother, Israel Hale, was in his early twenties when he was severely injured. While attempting to repair a collapsed trailer on the side of the road, he was hit by a car traveling at 50 mph. Hale survived, but without his legs.
While recovering and regaining his strength he set his sight on snowmachine racing, despite the challenges of riding as a double amputee.
The brothers’ first race was in 2020, when they participated in the recreational class as “warm-up” for the professional class race in 2021. Ahead of the 2021 Iron Dog, Israel Hale was recorded saying “I know it won’t be easy, so much of my life hasn’t been. The only difference is that this time, it is a challenge I’m choosing for myself.”
When asked why they race, Israel said they want to “inspire people to push forward in life despite issues of disability or despite mental capacity, and just do something that’s never been done. For both of us, it was just to do something that most people think is impossible or we kind of even thought might be impossible ourselves.”
The brothers concluded the interview with a special message to Western Alaska: “Don’t give up spirit, even when life is hard, because life comes at us from all different angles and some days it’s really hard. Out on the race, the trail is really hard. People have no idea the challenge. If you put your mind and heart to it and it’s what you want to do, you can make yourself do it. It’s not always going to be easy, but easy isn’t always good. Not just the race, but anything in life – whether it’s work, or family, or anything.”
Image at top: Brothers Israel and Joseph arrive in Nome after traveling more than 1,000 miles on snowmachine.