South Dakota runner to compete in Iditarod Trail Invitational

Most people are familiar with the Iditarod Dog Sled races, but there are other races that take place along side of that, which are still of extreme measures. The Iditarod Trail Invitational, or ITI, is the world's longest running winter ultra-marathon. 

KNIK, Alaska — South Dakota resident Ryan Wanless is participating in the Iditarod Trail Invitational competition for the second time. He flies out Thursday from Sioux Falls and begins the race on Sunday.

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

It’s a race of grit, tenacity and perseverance – an experience for the extreme adventurist like Ryan Wanless, an avid runner who loves a challenge and who is also grateful for the opportunity.

Wanless says, “Now I’m probably acting out my inner 10 or 12 year old boy dreams of, you know, just kind of being out there and you walk and you look at some of these areas and you can probably count on two hands how many people have probably seen these areas or even less got to experience them like I did. I just feel very lucky and fortunate ever day out there to be in a place you know with family support and other stuff, that I get to go do that.”

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

He’ll travel along the historic Iditarod Trial that cuts through Alaska, about 350 miles on foot, pulling a sled with survival gear in tow.

The ITI is a measure of human willpower. The Alaskan wilderness has extreme weather conditions and terrain, and wildlife who may not be so welcoming.

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan says physical fitness is important to bring to the trail as well as a strong mental game. He says the key is to stay positive, especially when weather conditions change on a dime.

“You think you are on a frozen solid river and your left foot all of the sudden steps in water and it’s now wet and it’s 25 below; I mean you have some serious choices and you better act quick and be smart and not compound this mistake…for that race, help isn’t coming, and don’t expect, you know, extraction. If you get yourself in there, you have to get yourself out,” says Wanless.

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Pit stops may include a few winks of sleep or a rare, hot meal from the remote native villagers.

Overall, Ryan says when in the throes of the race it’s tough, but when it’s finished, you’re sad it’s over.

Wanless says, “You have a short memory of the bad times and a long memory of the good times and you just keep going…it’s what I signed up for; it’s what I’m looking forward to. I know there is going to be peaks and valleys – when it’s good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, you know it’s gonna get better.”

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan Wanless ITI photo, 2020

Ryan says his stash of candy bars is a secret weapon to keep his energy up.

Last year the race took him eight days to complete.

Follow the race by clicking here.

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