Fewer people complete the Iditarod dogsled race than reach the summit of Everest. Of this year’s 52 mushers, only 39 made it the full 1,000 miles to the finish line. Sweet Briar’s Alison Lifka (’13) is among them.
“It was just kind of like- something I really wanted to be able to do, so I went out and did it,” she said.
Alison Lifka was born in Ohio, grew up in North Carolina, and graduated from Sweet Briar College in 2013 with a degree in environmental science.
She moved to Alaska three days afterward to work as a kayak guide, soon becoming involved in dogsled racing.
In March, she finished 32nd in the 2019 Iditarod with a final time of 13 days, eight hours, 35 minutes, and 29 seconds.
“But I didn’t really dream it was actually possible while I was in college,” she said.
She describes the 1,000-mile race as a trust exercise between her and her dogs, where neither can survive without the other.
“So you have to be able to read their body language, you have to be- you have to know your dogs,” she said.
She says the serenity of the wilderness and the thrill of an eventual finish gave way to just staying afloat.
“Most of the trail, I couldn’t focus on getting to the finish line because I was just focused on getting to the next checkpoint,” she said.
She met her goal through the exhaustion while her parents looked on.
She says one group of supporters deserve the most thanks, though.
“The dogs. I mean without the dogs, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be talking to you. I mean they’re the real stars of the show, and I wish I could have all 14 here with me,” she said.
Alison tells WFXR she’s probably taking a break next year while she figures out a way to build her own kennel, but that there will hopefully be future races.