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Decision on fate of 2015 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is expected on Sunday

The fate of the 2015 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will be decided Sunday afternoon. That's when the 13 members of the event's board of directors will hold a teleconference to discuss the pros and cons of sticking to the originally scheduled Jan.

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Amanda Vogel waves to the crowd as she starts the 2014 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
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The fate of the 2015 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will be decided Sunday afternoon.

That’s when the 13 members of the event’s board of directors will hold a teleconference to discuss the pros and cons of sticking to the originally scheduled Jan. 25 race date or postponing the competition until March 1, in hopes of more snow cover.

If the date of the race remains unchanged, Jason Vincent, the event’s media director, said it’s virtually inevitable that the route of the course will need to be altered.

“It’s highly unlikely that anything Duluth-related is going to happen if we don’t postpone,” Vincent said.

He explained that the route of the course needs to be finalized by Sunday for permitting purposes, and there’s not enough snow in the current weather forecast to make running sleds through Duluth viable.

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“The reports we’ve been getting indicate that conditions from Two Harbors to the north are great,” Vincent said.

Without a revised date, the race could either be run in an abbreviated form or loops could be added to make up for much of the lost distance between Two Harbors and Duluth.

At 374 miles in distance, the Beargrease Marathon is the longest sled dog race in the nation’s lower-48 states.

Unfortunately, the stretch between Duluth and Two Harbors is typically one of the most popular portions of the race for viewers.

Vincent said postponing the race until March 1 might make it possible to maintain the original course configuration but would have another drawback.

“There’s a good chance we would lose a significant portion of our mushers because of prior commitments many of them have already made,” he said.

So far, 20 mushers have registered for the full marathon and 27 have registered for a shorter mid-distance race.

Despite organizers’ best laid plans, Vincent observed: “The weather is the one part of the race that we have no control over.”

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The race was last delayed until March in 2013, and it had to be canceled in 2012 due to inadequate snowfall.

A press conference will be called Sunday to announce updated plans for this year’s Beargrease.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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