Lance Mackey

Lance Mackey (born June 2, 1970[1]) is an American dog musher and dog sled racer from Fairbanks, Alaska, a four-time winner of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and cancer survivor.

Lance Mackey
Lance Mackey.jpg
Mackey at the 2009 Iditarod Race
Personal information
NationalityUnited States
Born (1970-06-02) June 2, 1970 (age 51)
Anchorage alaska
WebsiteLance Mackey's Comeback Kennel
SportDogsled racing
Event(s)Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race


Lance Mackey following his 2010 Iditarod Win

Lance Mackey's career as a sled dog musher began with his first appearance in the 2001 Iditarod–placing 36th out of the 57 who finished the race[2] and winning a mere $1046.00.[3] By 2007, Mackey had quickly moved up the ranks to become the first person to win both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in the same year.[4] Mackey continued to set high standards: in 2008, he won the Tustumena 200, followed by his fourth consecutive Yukon Quest win and his second Iditarod win.[5] While he chose not to run the Yukon Quest the next year, Lance captured his third consecutive Iditarod in 2009.[6] In 2010, Mackey rejoined the fray, finishing second in the Yukon Quest and also securing his 4th consecutive Iditarod win before sliding out of the top ten in the 2011 race, much to the dismay of multiple news reporters.[7] Since his 2011 win, Mackey has been unable to secure a position in the top 10 Iditarod finishers despite five different attempts. On May 7, 2020, the Iditarod announced that due to a failed drug test, Lance Mackey’s 21st place finish at the 2020 Iditarod will be vacated. Mackey’s urine sample taken in White Mountain, a standard operating procedure for the first thirty mushers arriving at the checkpoint, tested positive for methamphetamine.[8] After this setback, Mackey did not participate in the 2021 Iditarod.[9]

Kennel Practices and DogsEdit

2009, the 37th running of The Last Great Race

Lance Mackey runs his kennel "Comeback Kennel" on a 5 acre plot of land near Fairbanks, Alaska.[10] The sixty some dogs that Lance maintains at his kennel have bloodlines dating back to one of his most legendary dogs, "Zorro." Zorro was born in 2000 and at one point, Lance's entire team was composed of Zorro's offspring. Unfortunately, Zorro's career was cut short after a snow-machine accident during the 2008 All-Alaskan Sweepstakes. While Zorro survived and regained the use of his legs after months of treatment, including acupuncture and physical therapy, he was unable to compete again.[11]

Some of Mackey's practices at his kennel have been criticized publicly, particularly the use of CBD treatment for his dogs.[12] In response to criticism, Mackey has defended his methods of care and argues that the use of CBD for sled dogs helps speed their recovery time. PETA has criticized Mackey in a public statement claiming the cruelty of dog racing. Their public criticism followed the death of two of Lance's dogs during the 2015 Iditarod.[13]

Early YearsEdit

Lance was born into a family of sled dog mushers. His father, Dick Mackey, was one of the founders of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and won the event by a one second margin over Rick Swenson in 1978. Lance's half-brother Rick Mackey also won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1983. All three of them won the race on their sixth attempt while wearing bib number 13.[14]

Mackey has been racing since he was a child; his father recalls building a sled for Lance as soon as he was old enough to hold on and then, watching him enter and win his very first race.[15] However, technically speaking, Mackey's first race was from the comfort of his mother's womb, as she placed fourth in the Women's North American Championships while seven months pregnant with Lance.

Mackey's parents divorced at a young age and believes the distance he felt from his father caused his rebellion in his younger years. As a teenager, Lance reports being arrested multiple times for various charges. After living with her for some time, his mother eventually sent Lance to live with his father at the Coldfoot Truck stop. From there, Lance transitioned into a life as a fisherman before eventually returning to his calling as a dog sled musher.

Personal lifeEdit

Mackey was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001 but didn't let his diagnosis impede his career and entered the 2002 Iditarod race regardless.[16] However, he would not finish that race. Due to complications from his cancer treatment, including a feeding tube, Mackey was forced to scratch from that race and take a full year off from racing to recover. After radiation treatment that led to the degradation of his teeth, he is now considered cancer-free.[17] Cancer is not the only ailment that challenges Mackey. He also suffers from Raynaud's syndrome, a condition often triggered by cold. This syndrome, causing immense pain in Mackey's finger, led him to voluntarily have his left index finger amputated.[18]

In his personal life, Mackey has openly struggled with addiction. After testing positive for methamphetamine during the 2020 Iditarod, Lance announced he would be checking himself into rehab.[8] He has also previously spoken about his struggles with cocaine and alcohol.[19]

Mackey has been married three times and divorced twice.[20] In October 2020, Mackey's partner, Jenne Smith, tragically passed away in an ATV accident.[21] Mackey and Smith had parented two children, Atigun and Lozen, who were both under the age of five at the time of the fatal accident.[22]

Honors and accomplishmentsEdit

Asteroid 43793 Mackey, discovered by Carolyn Shoemaker and David H. Levy at Palomar Observatory in 1990, was named in his honor.[23]}}

Mackey was the subject of a 2015 independent feature-length film called The Great Alone, a documentary following his life story and career.

In 2010, Lance was publicly recognized by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski on his fourth consecutive Iditarod win and acknowledged his determination and perseverance in both his personal and professional matters.[24]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "2001 Iditarod Race Results - 2001 Iditarod - Iditarod". Retrieved 2021-04-14.
  3. ^ "Lance Mackey - Musher Career Summary - Race Archives - Iditarod". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  4. ^ "Lance Mackey". Alaska Sports Hall Of Fame. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  5. ^ "Past Winners – T200 Sled Dog Race". Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  6. ^ "With bow to dogs, Mackey wins third straight Iditarod". The Denver Post. Associated Press. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  7. ^ News, Alaska Dispatch; news, ContributorAlaska's best; opinion (2011-03-14). "Defending Iditarod Champion Lance Mackey Concedes 2011 Race". HuffPost. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  8. ^ a b Grove, Casey; Anchorage, Alaska Public Media- (2020-05-07). "Iditarod DQ's Lance Mackey for positive meth test during race". Alaska Public Media. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  9. ^ "Musher List - 2021 Iditarod - Iditarod". Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  10. ^ Dean, Josh (2014-01-13). "Lance Mackey: The World's Toughest Athlete". Outside Online. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  11. ^ Green, Sarah Jean (1 April 2008). "Sled dog struck by snowmobile likely to recover". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Iditarod's oldest musher quits, another gives dogs CBD oil". ABC News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  13. ^ "PETA Statement: Third Dog Dies During 2015 Iditarod". PETA. 2015-03-23. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  14. ^ "Mackey wins 1,100-mile Iditarod". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  15. ^ Kohs, Greg (2015-04-25), The Great Alone (Documentary, Adventure, Drama, Sport), Dick Mackey, Lance Mackey, Alkemy X, retrieved 2021-04-14
  16. ^ "Mackey wins 1,100-mile Iditarod". Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  17. ^ "Health issues could end four-time Iditarod winner's career". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  18. ^ Lance Mackey: Giving doc the finger (literally), retrieved 2021-04-08
  19. ^ Lance Mackey: Spent $100,000/year on drugs & booze, retrieved 2021-04-15
  20. ^ "Iditarod champion Lance Mackey: the world's toughest athlete". 2010-10-19. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  21. ^ Mathews, Cheyenne. "Jenne Smith, partner of Iditarod musher Lance Mackey, has died". Alaska News Source. Retrieved 2021-04-14.
  22. ^ "Jennifer Smith Obituary (1988 - 2020) - Fairbanks, AK - Monterey Herald". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  23. ^ "43793 Mackey (1990 VK7)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  24. ^ "Murkowski Congratulates Lance Mackey and His Team on Winning the Iditarod | U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska". Retrieved 2021-04-15.

External linksEdit