BATTLE OF THE CHAMPS: Aili claims 2nd Beargrease Marathon win, Anderson runner-up
DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - It was a battle of past champions in the final legs of the 2023 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
Keith Aili of Ray, Minnesota, and Ryan Anderson of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, were both fighting for first place.
In the end, Aili crossed the Grand Portage finish line first on Tuesday afternoon, finishing just before 3 P.M.
Aili said his approach to this race was different than others.
Running with a younger and less experienced team, Aili said he had to go slow at the start of the race and kick it into high gear toward the end, which ended up working in his favor.
After he crossed the finish line, Aili said his approach to this race differed from others. Running with a younger and less experienced team, he had to go slow at the start of the race and then really kick it into high gear toward the end.
“A lot of people had written me off whatever place I was in, fourth or fifth. A lot of people said, ‘oh, he’s not even in the race,’ so to prove them wrong was fun to do,” said Aili.
Aili is no stranger to the Beargrease winner’s circle. He won the race in 2006 and most recently placed 2nd in 2020, the last time he ran the Beargrease.
Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson was hoping to win his fifth full Beargrease but fell short, finishing in second place just seven minutes behind Aili.
He was in 1st place for the vast majority of the race, but in the end, he said his team didn’t race their best.
“I am happy for Keith. I feel like I made a few mistakes I could improve on. I don’t feel the dogs performed to their level,” said Anderson.
Despite the 2nd place finish, Anderson still holds the record for the most wins in Beargrease history with four full marathon victories and one mid-distance win.
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