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Iditarod musher shares inspirational experiences with Port Maitland students

Bradley Farquhar’s achievements include climbing highest mountain in North America, a Sahara Desert marathon and swimming British Channel

PORT MAITLAND - A Nova Scotian adventurer’s true tales of life experiences held a room full of elementary school students spellbound on June 11.

The Port Maitland school presentation was one of close to 35 that Bradley Farquhar, a 32-year-old from Brooklyn, is making in the province.

Farquhar has climbed Mount Denali – the highest mountain in North America – has run with the bulls in Pamplona, has swum the British Channel and has run the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands), a multiday race in the Sahara Desert.

Each of these accomplishments came with tremendous challenges and obstacles that Farquhar had to surmount both physically and mentally. His most recent adventure, however, as a musher in the 1,600-kilometre Iditarod was his most gruelling to date. 

The Alaska sled dog race fed his imagination at an early age. As an eight-year-old he watched a movie called Iron Will at his grandmother’s. The movie is about a young man who enters a sled dog race hoping to win enough to save the family farm.

“I saw how hard this boy had to work to accomplish his goals through dogsledding and I thought, wow, someday I’d love to give that a try,” he said.

Farquhar knew his Iditarod dream required preparation in order to have a happy ending so several years ago he took the first steps.

He joined musher Sebastian Schnuelle for his initial taste of sledding. At the end of a week he knew the Iditarod was his goal. Another musher, Ken Anderson, took Farquhar under his wing and got him through the three qualifying races for the Iditarod.

The 2018 Iditarod began on March 3. Farquhar left the start line in Willow, Alaska, with 67 other teams. He began the race with 14 dogs and finished with 10, for various reasons. Dogs that cannot complete the race are left at checkpoints along the way under a veterinarian’s care and returned to owners at the end of the race.

His team’s condition and health was the primary concern for Farquhar.

“You come second place to these guys. At the end of the day, they’re going to get you there. You can suffer and still be on the back of the sled, but if they’re suffering, they’re not moving forward.”

Mushers battled many conditions along the way, including blood-chillingly low temperatures, a lack of sleep, food and water.

Farquhar remembers having hallucinations of a beach on the horizon and also swinging his arms at tree branches while being on a lake.  

He struggled through snow up to his waist and there were times when he couldn’t distinguish the line between the sky and the trail.

At one point, with 350 miles to go, his dogs refused to run.

“At the end of the day you can’t push a rope and if they don’t want to lead, the race is over,” he said.

He switched leaders a few times and his best friend, Jerry, saved the day.

He met the four-year-old Alaskan husky, a cross between a Siberian husky and a hunting-pointer type dog, 18 months before.

“I knew I was going to be working with him again, so before we even started, I bought him. He’s such a cool dog and really, he chose me.

“I wouldn’t have finished without him,” said Farquhar.

After 12 days on the trail, he and his team were the 44th to cross the finish line in Nome. He is the first Maritimer to complete the race.  The prize of $500,000 was divided among all the finishers. Everyone who crosses the finish line received at least $1,049.

Farquhar’s steadfast determination during tough times presented a powerful example to the youngsters.  

“The reason I’m sharing these stories with you today is not to say that I’m any different than any one of you guys, because I’m the exact same.

“You’re going to have friends, co-workers, bosses…. that might be stronger, faster, better looking, smarter, more talented than you and they’re going to tell you that one of your goals is silly and that you can’t accomplish it. But I tell you, those qualities, they do not matter.  What matters is how hard you’re willing to work for that goal and what you’re willing to give up to get it,” he said.

Farquhar’s next goal is to become a contestant on Amazing Race Canada.

“I’ve been applying for the past four years and feel like this is the year,” he said.

After a decade away from Nova Scotia he says he’s “pumped” to be back and plans on starting some businesses in the province.

More about Bradley Farquhar

Those interested in having Farquhar present to their school or organization can email to check availability. 

Visit this website to learn more about Farquhar’s adventures.

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