Jeff King grabbed the lead in the 2013 Iditarod, blasting through the Koyuk checkpoint Monday morning, passing Mitch Seavey in the process. King, a four-time champion -- most recently in 2006 -- is now on his way to Elim, with roughly just 170 miles left before the finish in Nome, Alaska.
Seavey, who won in 2004, is running with 10 dogs and reached Koyuk at 7:42 a.m. local time. King, after dropping two dogs in Shaktoolik, came in just 34 minutes later. And while Seavey opted to rest and feed his dogs, King took the opportunity to run through the checkpoint, stopping for just eight minutes total.
The run to Elim, a town of 330 people on the Norton Bay coast, is often windy and should take teams anywhere from five to seven hours. However, the weather seems to be cooperating currently, with little to no wind and temperatures expected to hover around 0 degrees on Monday.
Chasing King and Seavey are a group of nine mushers, all of whom left Shaktoolik within six hours of each other, including Aaron Burmeister, Aliy Zirkle and Ray Redington, Jr. (complete standings). Martin Buser, who for the first week of the Iditarod held a commanding lead after an unprecedented run to Rohn, sits in 13th place, having checked into Shaktoolik almost eight hours behind race-leader King. It was during Buser's record-setting run that King forced himself to be patient.
Only four days ago, King was taking his mandatory 24-hour layover in Iditarod, where he watched 22 teams leave ahead of him at the halfway point of the 1,000-mile race. He admitted that holding back wasn't an easy task.
"Fast dog teams are like drugs to mushers," King said in Unalakleet. "We love it and we want more and we want them to go faster. And yet part of us is going, ‘No, no, I've got to break the habit.' "
If King can hang on and win in Nome, he will become just the second musher ever to win five Iditarods, joining Rick Swenson. So what's his plan? Musher and 2009 Yukon Quest winner Sebastian Schnuelle offers some insight:
GO all the way to Elim? That is a long shot, but also, that would get him into the heat of the day. Maybe Jeff will run till it gets warm, about 1 pm. than pull over through the heat of the day and than continue around 4 p.m?