Dec 26, 1954 - Aug 5, 2006
Honorary musher of 2007 Iditarod is Susan
Butcher: She succumbed to leukemia on August 5,
2006 at age 51, but she will always be remembered
as a great and graceful champion who put together
an unmatched five-year stretch of racing. She
ran 18 times, won four of them including three in a
row. Many of us will remember Susan as the
Iditarod's most dominant musher, but she was also a
mother, wife, family member and friend. She was an
accomplished woman who lived her life to the
Four time winner of the
Iditarod and the first
woman to ever place in the top 10. She also
won the 1992 and 1993 Copper Basin 300.
Related Issue: Iditarod
Susan Butcher, Four Time Iditarod Trail
Sled Dog Race Champion, Loving Daughter, Wife and
Mother. There is no doubt that in the fifty
one years Susan walked this Earth, she has created
an indelible imprint on those she has touched. Such
an imprint is hard to put into words. The following
is an excerpt written by David Monson (Susans
Husband) in a journal he kept and posted for
everyone trying to keep connected to Susans
valiant battle against Leukemia;
06-Aug-06 04:27 AM
Susan left us at 3:25 pm August 5, 2006.
It was peaceful; the rest after her greatest race.
We told her we would be OK. That she had made us
strong enough to carry on. When she was sure that
we were ready, she was gone.
Tonight the girls and I took a ferry to
Bainbridge Island. It was a peaceful passage from
the turmoil of the city to a quiet spot she loved.
Tekla wore her mothers necklace and Chisana
wore her rings. We sat silently near the shore and
looked up. The sky was an explosion of stars. I
asked Chisana which one she thought was her mom.
She sat on my lap and studied the sky for a long
time finally she pointed and said I think
that one. But dont worry she is not
alone. Neither are we. She will be guiding us
from that star.
These words speak volumes about Susan, her
passion for life, and her love for her family.
1986, 1987, & 1988 Winner of the
There is only one woman who enters a race called
the Iditarod, that takes her 1,161 miles across the
Alaskan wilderness, enduring 100 m.p.h. winds,
arctic blizzards, snow blindness, wild animals,
thin ice, sleep deprivation, avalanches, and
whatever else nature feels like throwing at a
person up in the land of the midnight sun -- and
wins three times in a row. That woman is Susan
Susan Butcher grew up in the city of Boston. She
hated city life, she thought it was unhealthy and
crowded. She moved to the Wrangell Mountains of
Alaska to pursue her first love - dog-sled racing
and breeding huskies! She is an animal lover, a
businesswoman, a wife and a mother. She is also the
only person ever to win the 1,161 mile Iditarod
three consecutive times.
She trains between twelve to sixteen hours a
day, usually seven days a week. She trains herself
through running, cycling, weight lifting program,
and then for about nine months of the year she can
actually use a sled. She mushes fifty to seventy
miles a day.
"I have been known to walk in front of my team
for 55 miles, with snow shoes, to lead them through
snow storms, in non-racing situations, where I
could have just as easily radioed for a plane to
come and get me."
She went to Colorado State University, and
became a veterinarian technician. She then took
courses above and beyond technician work in the
veterinary field. But she was not a student, mostly
because of her dyslexia. She worked to become a vet
for three years before deciding not to pursue it
Once when she was interviewed she was asked to
describe one of her adventures while mushing.
"A less common danger, but nonetheless very
serious, is the moose. The wolves are simply
curious. They never cause us any problems. The
bears, except for the polar bears, are in
hibernation, and most of the polar bears are much
further north than where we race. So the only
danger for us really is the moose and the buffalo.
But we only run through one herd of buffalo on the
way to Nome. The moose generally run away from a
dog team but occasionally they will somehow feel
entrapped, and they feel they have to run toward
you, and in essence, through the dog team. That has
probably happened to me three or four times. No
serious injuries to the dogs, none to me. Only
In 1985, I was traveling alone at night in the
lead of the race and ran into an obviously crazed
moose. She was starving to death. There was
something wrong with her. She was just skin and
bones. And rather than run away, she turned to
charge the team. I thought she would just run
through me. I stopped the team, threw the sled
over. She had plenty of room to pass us along the
trail. She came into the team and stopped. She just
started stomping and kicking the dogs. She charged
at me. for twenty minutes, I held her off with my
ax and with my parka, waving it in her face. And
finally, another musher came along and we shot her,
but not before she had killed two of my dogs, and
she injured thirteen others, leaving me to scratch
from the race. She bruised my shoulder. We spent
the next two weeks at a veterinary hospital, saving
the lives of the injured dogs."
Susan and her husband Dave Monson have run in
and won almost every major dog sled race worldwide.
Additionally, Susan has even taken a team of dogs
to the 20,230 foot summit of Mount McKinley! They
have a little daughter named Marguerita.
* * *
©1996-2017 by Gordon