'You're never too old,' says 78-year-old musher after finishing Yukon Quest

If you think you're too old to take on a new challenge, musher Jim Lanier has some advice: 'Go for it, all you old geezers out there!'

Jim Lanier ran the gruelling 1,600-km race for the 1st time this month

Musher Jim Lanier was a rookie in the Yukon Quest, but he's no rookie musher — he's run in Alaska's Iditarod 20 times. (Crystal Schick/The Canadian Press)

Jim Lanier says the Yukon Quest sled dog race was "everything it was cracked up to be — in a word, tough."

The 78-year-old Alaska musher crossed the race finish line in Fairbanks, Alaska on Thursday, after 13 days on the gruelling, 1,600-kilometre backwoods trail through Yukon and Alaska. He finished 24th out of 27 mushers who completed the race this year.

He was considered a "rookie" in the race, because he'd never run the Quest before. But Lanier is no rookie to the sport — he's been mushing for 40 years, and has run in 20 Iditarods.

"My wife, after last year's Iditarod — which ended up with me being lost in a big windstorm — she said, 'That's enough, no more Iditarod for you,'" Lanier said.

"Of course, she didn't say I couldn't do any more [Yukon] Quests."

Many mushers have said the Yukon Quest is more challenging than the Iditarod. Lanier simply says each race is different, though he especially appreciated the Yukon Quest's checkpoints.

"The hospitality at the stops is wonderful. People go out of their way to make you feel welcome, make you feel comfortable. They fix you terrific food, and send you on your way a rejuvenated man," he said.

'I really hope it inspires people'

When asked where he finds the energy to race at his age, he struggled for an answer.

"That's a good question ... I don't eat Wheaties for breakfast," he said. 

Lanier and his team leave Whitehorse on Feb. 2, at the start of the race. He arrived at the finish line in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Thursday. (Robin Wood/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner/The Associated Press)

"I'm energetic because each day I get to live to see another one, and get to do all these wonderful things — like mushing the Yukon Quest."

He said he's been called an inspiration, and he doesn't mind that a bit.

"I really hope it inspires people to do likewise, and to realize that you're never too old. You're never too old to do this, and many other things — and people need to know that," he said.

 "Go for it, all you old geezers out there!"

With files from George Maratos


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.