The Underdog Race Takes Off

Marcel Marin has participated in some of the largest, most famous dog-sledding competitions in the world. But he started the Underdog race — which kicks off at 7 a.m. at Prosperous Lake this Saturday, Apr. 4 — as a way to let “guys who want to race but couldn’t” get a crack at a competitive event.

“The Iditarod costs at least $20,000, and can cost as much as $50,000, and that’s not even counting your dogs. Plus, you’re probably not working that year; you have to train like an athlete. For my competition all you need are your dogs,” Marin told, adding that his own kennel costs him around $10,000 a year all-told.

Anybody can join, including people with kennels both big and small. The caveat is, there’s a seven-dog cap, and you can’t switch them out. “Sometimes the big kennels win, but it’s much closer. You get a good race out of it,” he says.

Some years have been a pretty mixed bag as far as contestants go. “One year we had a pregnant woman, a 13-year old boy, and a 60-year old man,” says Marin.

Taking advantage of the open opportunity this year are an interesting pair; Craig Houghton and his 11-year old son Sean, here from Fort St. James, BC. They participated in the Canadian Championship Dog Derby last weekend.

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For them, dog-sledding has been and remains a family tradition. “It’s been in my family for generations; we keep the dog’s at my parents place, not far from our house,” says Craig.

“I’ve been helping my dad with the dogs since I started walking,” adds Sean.

They’ll each be racing their own sleds. “Hopefully he won’t be ahead of me,” says Craig with a laugh, “I do have some pride.”

Although unquestionably a competitive race (it’s 80 km, and a good 5-6 hours) the Underdog environment is designed to be a bit friendlier than the larger events. “At the bigger races, if you were the last guy to get going, everybody would be gone when you left. Here people stick around. There’s also a cash prize for everyone, not just the top three.”

Craig Houghton harnesses up his dogs

11-year-old Sean Houghton prepares himself for the 80 km trek

Craig Houghton hopes to stay in front of his son



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