Lance Mackey, the only musher ever to win the 1,200-mile Iditarod dog sled race four times, won the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson-Zacharias Courage Award.
Mackey is the only one to win both the Iditarod and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in the same year (less than two weeks apart.) He is also the only one to win the Yukon Quest four times. All of these feats came after surviving throat cancer.
Born and raised in Alaska, Mackey grew up around dog mushing. His father, Dick Mackey, was one of the founders of the Iditarod, which began in 1973. Mackey’s father won the race across Alaska’s wilderness by one second in 1978. His brother, Rick, won the race in 1983.
Mackey’s dream to carry on the family name in mushing almost ended when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001 and underwent extensive surgery as well as radiation treatment. He started the 2002 Iditarod with a feeding tube still in place in his stomach, but had to drop out of the race halfway into it.
He took 2003 off to regroup. For the next several years, Mackey continued to run dogs and won his first Yukon Quest. In 2007, he returned to the Iditarod and won. He would end up winning both races four times, winning both in the same year three times. Perhaps his proudest personal accomplishment is that he has been honored on both the Quest and the Iditarod for taking the best care of his dogs, who he considers to be the true champions.
The Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award is presented to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sports. This individual should exhibit the qualities of courage, perseverance, grace and strength in sports achievement.