Did You Know?

Fun Facts About the Up200 & Midnight Run

The Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association is a nonprofit, educational organization formed in 1989 to educate the public about dog mushing, and to encourage the emergence of mushing as a fan sport and a broadly-accessible form of winter recreation for the entire family.

The founders of the UP200 & Midnight Run were Jeffrey Mann, Scott and Elise Bunce, Tom and Sarah Lindstrom, and Lou Ann Balding.

When Jeffery Mann came to Marquette, he had an idea for a sled dog race that started to become a reality, thanks to Tom Lindstrom. When he arrived in Marquette, Jeffrey had 20 dogs and 3 years later he left with 28 dogs for home, Fairbanks, Alaska. After Jeff finished the UP200 in 1991 in 9th place, disappointed, he went to Togo, MN to train with Jamie Nelson, who had finished 2nd in the race that year.

The UP200 initially ran a maximum of 10 dogs and the Midnight Run a maximum of 6 dogs.

The first UP200 race had 14 teams, and the Midnight Run had 12 teams. In the MNR the second-place winner was Darlene Leafgren of Superior, WI; she had the distinction of being the ONLY woman musher in the race.

State Representative D.J. Jacobetti, from the Michigan Travel Commission, presented to the UPSDA the Governor’s Tourism Marketing Award.

In 1990 President and Mrs. Bush were invited to attend the first UP200/MNR. In our Archives are the letter and the reply back, stating they were sorry but would not be able to attend, but sent their best wishes for a successful race.

In 1990 on the day before the first race, Marquette got 16 inches of snow. Oberstar still hauled and dumped snow along the M-28 snowmobile trail and bike trail to make a five-mile path. At the start there was an honor escort of 20 snowmobiles out of town.

In 1990 a snowmobile accident occurred, 45 minutes into the race near Deerton trail. A single snowmobile came down the trail, and the musher and his dogs jumped to the side of trail. The snowmobiler stopped for a moment, stared at team, said nothing and then sped off.

In 1991 Dr. Tom Cooley was killed in a lodge fire in Minnesota. He had been the Chief Veterinarian for the races, coordinating the crew of veterinarians responsible for conducting the mandatory pre-race vet check as well as the vet check required at each checkpoint. In memory of Dr. Cooley, the Cooley Challenge award was established. The winner is selected and presented by the veterinary staff at the end of the race, for exemplary care of their dog team.

In 1991 William Kleedehn, called the “one-legged musher”, from Willard Lake, Ontario, raced in the UP200. Kleedehn lost his leg in a motorcycle accident at age 18 when a drunk driver struck his cycle. He didn’t feel having an artificial leg was a great handicap as far as sled dog racing was concerned, and raced competitively until 2010.

In 1993 the mandatory total rest time for UP200 teams was 12 hours.   The race start was extended one block, starting at 4th & Washington, which is still the starting point for the race.

In 1994, running on ice led to the worst accident in the UP200. William “Billy” Orazietti, an experienced and well-liked musher from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario became disoriented on the ice over Little Bay de Noc. After straying off course, Orazietti’s dogs ran off the ice into open water. He managed to free two dogs from their harnesses, but ultimately the cold water took the lives of Billy and 8 of his dogs. In honor of Billy, his 1994 bib number, 11, has been retired from the race.

In 1994 Biologist Tom McCutcheon developed a formula for skunk remover stink. It was 1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tsp liquid soap. Mix, apply to dog, and follow with a through tap water rise.

In 1995 Dr Tom Porn, a Marquette chiropractor who served as the official race photographer, drowned in a scuba diving accident. The Tom Porn Award was established in his memory. This coveted sportsmanship award is presented by the mushers themselves to a fellow musher who demonstrates a positive attitude along with fair play and compassion.

In 1995, John Schandelmeir of Alaska won by less than a minute over Lloyd Gilbertson of Chatham.

In 1996 the UP200 was shortened by 112 miles due to white out conditions. The mushers voted to suspend the race, pack up and drive to Gwinn for a re-start and on to Marquette for the finish.

In 1997 ‘Cyber mushing’ took fans on the trail. Computer users were able to track the UP200 on the Internet thanks to a Marquette computer consulting firm that set up a race web page. At this time the John Beargrease Marathon was the only race you could follow on the web.   Local web hosting company up.net posted updates every 15 minutes during the race. Thanks to Jeff Blackman, president of Future Basic.

The 1998 UP200 winner, Keith Aili, was the youngest musher to win at that time.

In 1999, the eighth graders at National Mine schools learned about mushing and built a sled and dog boxes. Their teacher was Charlie Yeager.

In 2000 a big change was made for the UP200. Mushers could now have a maximum of 12 dogs, rather than 10.

In 2000, Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm was the guest of Munising News’ Willie Peterson. She attended the race and rode in the first sled with musher Tim Hunt. She said it was like nothing she had ever experienced before.

In 2001 the first fall sled dog symposium took place; the special guests were Rick Mackey and Joe Runyon. In 2002 the guest speaker was Doug Swingley.

2001 was dedicated to the Volunteers, as is this year’s race, which has been officially designated The Year of the Volunteer and is dedicated to all the volunteers who make it possible.

In 2001, the 12th year of the Midnight Run, the race gained world-class status and was recognized by the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports as the mid-distance 6-dog class world championship race that year. Entrants came from Russia, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Finland, New Zealand, and Quebec. It was first time the world championship race had been held in the ‘lower 48’; previous championship races had been held in Alaska, Norway, and Sweden, but never before in the continental U.S.

In 2001 the race Head Judge was Dick Mackey

2003 saw the start of the Jack Pine 30 mile race, from Gwinn to Marquette. This was a 6-dog race leaving from Larry’s Foods in Gwinn.

In 2003 the UP200 trail was changed to travel to Grand Marais, because Escanaba had no snow. Grand Marais put an entire checkpoint and 13 crossings together in less than three weeks. A year later the change was made permanent. This little town of 300 people still lines up over 100 volunteers each year.  The UP200 trail is now 234 miles long.

In 2005 a motion was made to eliminate Chatham as a Checkpoint but use it as a dog drop.

In 2005 the Midnight Run would begin in Gwinn, travel to Marquette and on to Deerton, finishing in Munising. It also was changed to 8 dogs maximum rather than 6.

In 2006, a blinding winter storm blew into the UP as the race started. Mushers faced white-out conditions and loss of the trail due to poor visibility. The judges made the decision to end the race in Grand Marais, and Tasha Stielstra of McMillan, MI was the winner.

In 2012, temperatures in the UP rose to 60 degrees three days before the start of the race. Due to the deterioration of the trail between Marquette and Wetmore, the race route was changed at the last minute. The mushers raced from Marquette to Grand Marais, then back to Wetmore, and returned to Grand Marais for the finish.