Redington earns the family’s first Iditarod win, a childhood dream

Ryan Redington and his team of six dogs, led by Sven and Ghost, are first in Nome on Tuesday. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Ryan Redington is the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Champion.

Redington and his team of six dogs rode down Front Street in Nome at 12:13 p.m. Tuesday to claim his first Iditarod victory on his 16th attempt. The team was led by 4-year-old Sven and 6-year-old Ghost. Redington raised his fists in the air as the crowd cheered. Temperatures were in the single digits on the sunny afternoon. He pets each of his dogs. He got hugs from family. He thanked his fans.

“It means everything to bring this trophy home,” Redington said in the finishing pit. “And yes, winning the Iditarod was a goal of mine since I was a little kid. And I can’t believe it. Finally it happened. It took a lot of work, a lot of patience and we failed a few times, you know, but we held our heads high and stuck to our dream.”

A musher runs down the snow-covered finish slide
Ryan Redington walks down Front Street to cheering fans. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Redington, 40, has deep mushing roots and his Iditarod win is the first in his family.

On White Mountain Sunday, with 77 miles to go, Redington said it would be an honor to take the win.

“It would be a really good thing for the race and for Alaska and for my family,” he said. “Pretty big event, grandpa started here.”

Redington’s grandfather, Joe Redington Sr., is one of the founders of the Iditarod. Ryan Redington is the son of Raymie, who has raced a dozen Iditarods, and he is the nephew of Joee, who finished third in 1975. His brothers Ray and Robert also took part. Ray’s highest finish was fourth and Roberts was 22nd.

“Yeah, it’s been a very tough life for all of us,” Ryan Redington said in Nome. “And it’s very – something we all work towards every day, no days off, we think about winning the Iditarod.”

Two people hug in the target shaft
Ryan Redington and his mother Barbara hug at the finish line. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

He credited his brothers for helping him race.

“I want to thank them for their courage and advice,” he said.

Redington, now a father of three, splits his time between Wisconsin and Knik, where he grew up mushing and playing basketball.

Redington started with the Iditarod in 2001. He scratched in seven of his first 12 races and then appeared to make his stride in 2020. He placed in the top 10 that year and then for the next two years thereafter. Prior to Tuesday, his highest finish of 2021 was seventh. That same year, he won the Kobuk 440 in a competitive field, becoming the only musher to complete the entire course after extreme conditions forced several other competitors to call a rescue. He has also twice won the 300-mile Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Minnesota.

His win on Tuesday not only makes him the first Redington to win the Iditarod, but also the first musher to win both the 1,000 mile race and the Jr. Iditarod. He won the junior race in 1999 and 2000.

A mushing sled in green
Ryan Redington was the first musher in Rainy Pass on March 6, where his team rested the heat of the day. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

At this year’s Iditarod, Redington led the field from the start of the race. He was the first musher to Rainy Pass and rested in the relatively warm hours of the day when temperatures soared above freezing.

He continued to run to the front of the field, finishing first at McGrath, near race mile 300. But by the time the teams reached the Yukon River, about halfway into the race, Redington seemed to have fallen behind 2022 champions Brent Sass and Jessie Holmes to be .

“I just hope they’re kidding each other, pushing each other a little too hard,” Redington said of his chances of winning at the Grayling checkpoint.

A person hands a plastic cupcake to a musher in a baseball cap
A Grayling resident presents Ryan Redington with a Reese’s peanut butter cupcake before his departure on March 10. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

At the next checkpoint, Sass scratched himself and said he had a bad cold and was in severe pain from three broken teeth. Further down the Yukon, Holmes’ team faltered, taking long and frequent breaks on the trail. Holmes said he was hoping to take his mandatory eight-hour break in Shageluk but discovered his dropbags hadn’t arrived. So he pushed the trail down another 25 miles to Anvik. He said his team lost the spark after that run.

The elimination of Sass and Holmes from the front of the race gave Redington a window to victory, along with 2019 champion Pete Kaiser of Bethel and Aniaks Richie Diehl. The three mushers, all Alaska Natives, arrived at Kaltag one after the other within 32 minutes, with Redington leading the way with just 350 miles to go to the finish line.

But only Redington risked a marathon on the shores of the Bering Sea. His team descended an 85-mile stretch to arrive in Unalakleet, his mother’s birthplace, early Sunday. He said it felt like a “childhood dream come alive.”

Two people look into the wind
Ryan Redington (right) just after arriving first at Unalakleet at 4:20am on March 12th. Iditarod Race Director and Race Marshal Mark Nordman welcomed Redington. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

After a few hours of rest, he set off across the sea ice towards Koyuk, 50 minutes behind Kaiser.

Kaiser initially appeared to recoup time on Redington, but then he stopped at Elim for more than five hours while Redington’s team charged ahead, stopping just minutes on a 94-mile stretch that took more than 13 hours. Kaiser said he realized he couldn’t catch Redington so he opted for the extended stop. He argued that if something unexpected happened to Redington’s team on the notoriously unpredictable coast, his team would be ready to take the lead.

Redington said he sees his long run as his “only chance” to beat Kaiser and Diehl, who he said he enjoyed competing against.

“I saw them a lot during the race and they’re great competitors and they have great dog teams and I had a lot of fun with them on the trail,” he said in Nome.

Kaiser’s decision to stop at Elim allowed Redington to arrive at White Mountain with a comfortable lead. After his mandatory eight-hour rest, he left the checkpoint at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, four hours ahead of Kaiser and Diehl, who departed within minutes.

From there, he and his dog team trudged through high winds for the final 100 miles of the race to Nome.

This is an evolving story. Check for updates again.

Keep our Iditarod coverage thriving! Your support today helps fund journalism at Alaska Public Media. Click here to donate.

For more Iditarod coverage, visit and click here to subscribe to our free Iditarod newsletter, which is sent daily during the race. For episodes of our Iditapod podcast, visit

Lex Trenen

Lex Treinen covers the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for Alaska Public Media. You can reach him at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *