The Duquette native gripped the sled behind her team of enthusiastic dogs as they leapt into action down the snow covered trail. She is the first descendant of John Beargrease to participate in the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. The rookie musher wearing bib number 414, came in 16th in the nearly 40 mile race.
Marcia (Keyport) Eiynck, great-great-granddaughter of John Beargrease, ran in the John Beargrease Marathon Sunday, January 31.
Marcia’s family has been involved in the marathon in some way for many years. Her grandmother, Viola Keyport and her uncle Mike Keyport volunteered for many years, inspiring a family tradition. Marcia and her husband Jason, have been volunteering with the group for 12 years, two of those years she served on the board of directors.
“I was tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching others have all the fun,” said Marcia. So she decided she wanted to mush. She started out by taking a few lessons from a friend, who lived three hours away. She soon learned that was a long and expensive drive for her. After receiving a job offer she couldn’t refuse, the Eiyncks moved back up to the Grand Portage area. It was here that she sent an email to Mary Manning, a well known musher and area conservation officer who took Marcia under her wing. It was late last winter when Marcia began training with Doodledog Kennels.
Fast forward a year and she was preparing for her first race, the Beargrease 40. The Beargrease 40 is approximately 38 miles, which is just a portion of the 400 mile full marathon, but still not a small feat. On Sunday, Marcia ran her team of six dogs the nearly 40 miles between Duluth and Two Harbors. The trip took her 4:59:53 running at an average speed of seven mph. The first place winner of the race came in at a time of 3:23:57.
“This year is not about winning races,” said Marcia. “It’s about gaining experience.” She will participate in a total of three races this year including the Wolf Track Classic in Ely, which is a 30 miles race that takes place in a couple of weeks. Third she will participate in the CopperDog 25 which is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the end of February.
Marcia’s team still shows family commitment. Her husband Jason, is her main handler and biggest supporter, also on her team as a handler is her uncle Mike. “The dogs get pretty jazzed up when it comes to race time,” Marcia explained, so an ATV is positioned behind the sled at the start line to help keep the dogs back from starting too early.
Marcia’s long term goal is to run in the full John Beargrease Marathon (which is the longest dog sled race in the lower 48 states at 400 miles) by the time she is 50.