Jamaica surely leads the Caribbean in “uncommon” sporting pursuits (and common ones for that matter; see Usain Bolt, world’s fastest man). Everyone knows about the country’s bobsled team, whose improbable run to the 1988 Winter Olympics was immortalized in the John Candy “classic”, Cool Runnings, but did you know that Jamaica is also the first Caribbean nation to field an entrant in the Iditarod?
You know the Iditarod, the 1,100-mile test of strength, endurance and sanity through the frigid and desolate wilds of the Alaskan Arctic… It’s about the last place you’d think to find someone from the Caribbean (you’ll NEVER find me there), but Jamaican Newton Marshall completed the race earlier this year.
Newton finished a respectable 47th out of 55 mushers, becoming the first non-white person to finish the race. The only other black musher in Iditarod history was Barry MacAlpine, who competed in the inaugural race back in 1973, but did not finish.
As was the case with their bobsledding bredren, the backstory of how the Jamaica Dogsled Team came into being is certainly fit for the Hollywood treatment. The owner of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, one of the region’s best tour companies for active and adventurous travelers, just happened to be in Canada a few years ago shopping for dune buggies. Instead, he found a dryland cart for dogsled training. Returning to Jamaica with the cart and a team of experienced dogsled trainers, the folks at Chukka set about working with the Jamaican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to train dogs rescued from the island’s streets.
That’s right, previously abandoned and unloved dogs that would otherwise be euthanized are helping to bring surprising sports glory to Jamaica! As a dog-lover who has owned several former strays and pound pups over the years, I LOVE everything about the Jamaica Dogsled Team.
If you do too, I highly recommend you check out Chukka’s Jamaica Dogsled Experience in Ocho Rios. The short video above provides a taste of the fun that’s in store when you opt for this truly unique Caribbean adventure. You can also keep up with the latest on the team by joining their Facebook fan page here.
Getting back to Newton’s unlikely Iditarod run, if you’re wondering whether a “Cool Mushings” film might be in our future, the answer is yes! This one won’t have the camp (or the Candy, of course) of Cool Runnings, though. Click here for details.