Ultra-Athletics
9:31 am
Wed March 26, 2014

West Virginia Doctor Walks 1,000 Miles to Win Alaskan Iditarod Trail Invitational

John Logar, with a mile to go to finish the Iditarod Trail Invitational.
Credit Nils Hahn / The Nome Nugget newspaper

The Iditarod. Referred to as the Last Great Race on Earth. The annual long-distance sled dog race occurs in early March from Anchorage, Alaska, northwest to Nome—just over 1000 miles. Mushers and a team of 16 dogs cover the distance in about a fortnight. But there’s another event, the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which covers the same route, but by foot, bike, or ski. This year, a Tucker County resident won the race on foot.

Dr. Logar is an emergency room physician who works in Randolph County. He’s part of a subculture of extreme ultra-athletes who do crazy things like race really long distances in difficult conditions. He says he doesn’t really remember when or how he became interested in the Iditarot, but last year he ran the qualifying 350-mile event, and after applying and being accepted to race the 1000-mile event this year, he paid the 1200-dollar fee, took some time off from the emergency room, and headed to Alaska.
Credit Nils Hahn / The Nome Nugget newspaper

The Iditarod Trail Invitational started off February 23. 23 days, 22 hours later, John Logar from Tucker County made it to Nome, Alaska.  There were 7 who started the foot race.

“Five of us made it to Nome,” Logar says. “ I was the first person to get to Nome. But we [ultra-athletes] don’t really care. Winning is finishing.”

Tucker County Ready

Logar spends a lot of time bicycling, year-round, through Tucker County, W.Va. Steep slopes, dicey roads--not a lot of people are regularly biking through and around Tucker County no matter the weather.

"For me it’s a lifestyle of activity," Logar says. "I don’t have a training program, I don’t have a regiment, I don’t have a diet, I attempt to be active every day, do something every day."

Logar says the rolling-hill landscape of the coastal portion of the trip reminded him a lot of West Virginia. But covering 1000 miles is like driving from Morgantown to Naples, Florida—in the car that would take about 18 hours. He says when you cover that kind of area, you’re bound to run through a variety of landscapes.

The Iditarod trail goes north on even years and south on odd years--spreading the adventure through different sets of villages.

 The Route

“The villages use this trail as a way to get between their towns in the winter, and it’s also being used by the sled dogs for the Iditarod. The weather, the conditions, the villages, everything changes throughout the course—different cultures as you move your way through.”

It took him 23 days, 22 hours, and 10 minutes. Logar ran 18-20 hours each day stopping for 3 or four hours to sleep and maintain. He slept outside mostly. Showered twice. He would be offered meals throughout the trip but for the most part, he ate along the way. He carried about three days’ worth of food at a time, collecting it as he traveled from post offices that he sent packages to beforehand.

Doctor Ready

Logar says for the most part he enjoyed himself. But there were some stumbling blocks.

"Yes, I was unfortunate enough to have, um, pretty severe diarrhea for the last five days," Logar recalls, laughing. "It was horrible."

Good thing he’s a doctor, right? And what did he prescribe for himself? What’s the secret of champions that allowed him to preserve and be first to the finish line?

“I asked a guy at the house I was staying at, ‘Do you have Laffy Taffy?’ He went and bought me, gosh, a hundred dollars worth of Laffy Taffy and Bit O Honey and that’s what worked for me. I ate Laffy Taffy the whole way.”

The Prize

Well, for winning first place, Logar didn’t receive any medal or ceremony or trophy. Just love and admiration from his community and free entry into next year’s race. He says he might have to do it again. But if he does, he’ll likely race on a bike.

Iditarod Lessons

Logar says first and foremost, the race taught him a lot about management. But he says he also learned a lot about what it means to be selfish:

“I’m gone for a month and I’m thinking only about myself and some very basic needs for myself. So it’s pretty selfish. And that was hard to deal with realizing that. It’s only possible because of my wife Jody. This would not be something I could do without her giving me the go-ahead. So it’s her fault,” he says laughing.