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Get ready for the UP 200 Sled Dog Races!

The annual U.P. 200 sled dog race along with two other races, the Midnight Run and the Jackpine 30 take place February 16-20, 2012. These three UP sled dog races draw 15,000 fans to the Upper Peninsula and provide a variety of challenges for mushers.

Jackpine 30, photo by Paul R. Nelson

The UP 200 is a qualifying race for the Iditarod and draws mushers from around the United States and Canada for one of America’s premier 12-dog, mid-distance sled dog races. The first UP200 was run in February, 1990, and the race covers approximately 240 miles from Marquette to Grand Marais, with a return to Marquette along the same trail. The terrain includes stretches of near-wilderness, creek crossings, hills and valleys, and heavily forested land. Mushers say this is one of their favorite races, not only because of the challenging race, but because of the cheering crowds and warm welcome they receive in the Upper Peninsula.

Coinciding with the UP200 is the eight-dog Midnight Run, a race from Marquette to Munising with a checkpoint in Chatham. This year the Midnight Run has a new, improved trail and will start in downtown Marquette approximately 30 minutes after the last UP200 musher has left the starting gate on Friday.

The JackPine 30 rounds out the weekend’s fun with a six-dog, 30-mile sprint from Gwinn, Michigan to Marquette. The JP30 will start on Saturday morning, February 18, 2012 in Gwinn. From there, it’s a race to the finish with teams expected in Marquette late morning or early afternoon on Saturday.

While the dogs and mushers are front and center, the races couldn’t happen without a dedicated group of over 500 volunteers from the U.P. and the midwest region who come together to stage this great event each year. Check out the great video below from our friends at Under the Radar Michigan and also a more in-depth video about volunteers and the race, and see a whole ton of photos from all three races in the UP 200 photo galleries!