- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - Organizers of the John Beargrease sled dog race say the recent drop in temperatures has alleviated concerns that unseasonably warm winter weather would leave enough snow for Minnesota race.

The race began Sunday morning and is expected to wrap up Wednesday, the Minnesota Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2k93qjO ) reported.

The trail along the North Shore of Lake Superior is being tested by a dozen experienced marathon racers. Another 16 mushers registered for the mid-distance race, which finished Monday with Martha Schouweiler in first place, according to the race’s Facebook page.

The race, which began in 1980, attracts top mushers from Alaska and Canada who are competing this year for $35,000. The race is named for an Ojibwe musher who delivered mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais by sled dog from 1879 to 1899.

Before the race began, unseasonably warm weather and rain in the area had organizers worried that there would be enough snow to race. But temperatures dropped into the 20s just in time, according to Beargrease board member Jason Rice.

“That was actually just good enough to set everything that we had,” he said, noting that the snow was firmly locked down before the race began to create “a very crispy, fast trail.”

New sponsors, fresh leadership and nearly 500 volunteers help run the Beargrease every year after the race was nearly canceled in 2013 when on the verge of bankruptcy.

Four mushers competing in the marathon also plan to race in Alaska’s famous Iditarod sled dog race. The 1,200 mile race is expected to take place in about one month.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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