The 41st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicked off on Saturday, March 2nd and started like any other. For those who are unfamiliar with the Iditarod, it is a dog sled race held every year starting in Anchorage, Alaska. You may be wondering 'how does this connect to the Cleveland Browns?'
In summer of 2012, Browns Backers Worldwide chartered a new club in Anchorage headed by Sally and Bob Selby. They call the club the 'Anchorage Snow Dawgs' and have a special connection to this past year's Iditarod. Their Backer club sponsored professional musher, Newton "Mushin' Mon" Marshall. Thirty year old Marshall is from St. Anne, Jamaica and participated in his first Iditarod in 2010. The high cost of participating in the yearly run led Sally and Bob to help Newton out. "I wanted to get Sally a sled dog for my birthday. I have everything I want so I donated $500 to a fundraiser for Marshall to get the dog" said Bob Selby.
Marshall and the Selbys connected at the clubs Pro Bowl party in late January. "Our club instantly fell in love with him. We are Browns fans and have spent our lives rooting for the underdogs," says Bob. Soon after their initial meeting, the Selby's worked with Newton’s marketing agent to help form a sponsorship. When it was time for the Iditarod to begin, Marshall's sled featured the Browns Backers logo along with patches on his parka.
Days into the Iditarod, Marshall stopped to help a fellow stranded musher on her sled. As he was assisting the musher, their dogs became entangled and one of Marshall's dogs got loose and took off running. The dog’s name is May. "Marshall was in tears and distraught over this" says Bob. The search for May went on for a full week and many thought that wolves and coyotes would have attacked her. May was spotted on the seventh day running anti-Iditarod, heading back to the starting line and survived on leftovers from other dogs and mushers. It is believed May journeyed for 400 miles before being found. May's condition was grave but Kaitlin Koch, a fellow musher, spotted May and nursed her back to full health. "I stopped my sled and got off and went to the ground and she came right up to me. She sat in my lap the entire trip back to Big Lake. I'm still in utter amazement at how far she got." May's disappearance cost Marshall a place in the finish.
With all things considered, the Selbys believe that sponsoring Newton was a great move to help build their club and show Alaskans that Browns fans are everywhere. The Selby's will meet with Newton and company later this month to begin planning the 2014 Iditarod and Bob promises one thing “Newton's sled will be brown and orange!"