DULUTH (WJON News) -- One of Minnesota's most recognizable winter events kicks off this weekend up along the north shore. The 39th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

On Saturday it's the opening ceremony at the Black Bear Casino Resort at 3:00 p.m.

There are three different distances 40 miles, 120 miles, and the 300-mile marathon. Organizers are expecting between 55 and 60 mushers total between the three race distances.

Jeremy Miller is on the Board of Directors. He says one of the 17 competitors in the marathon has a connection to St. Cloud.

A young man named Ero Wallin who comes from a mushing family out of Two Harbors and Silver Bay.  Ero is a student at St. Cloud State University and plays on the SCSU baseball team.  He will be in the marathon this year along with his mom Colleen Wallin.

Miller says the two Wallins finished third and fourth in last year's marathon.

All three race distances will start on Sunday morning at Billy's Bar with the first musher leaving the starting chute at 10:00 a.m. Mushers leave every two minutes with the last team leaving around 12:30 p.m. Miller says there's a lot of energy to start the race.

The start of our race at Billy's Bar in Duluth is absolutely electric.  You cannot understand the excitement and just the pure energy of 12 dogs who all they want to do is go run with their friends.

Spectators can take a shuttle from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Checkpoints include Two Harbors, Finland, Tofte, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage Casino. The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is the premier long-distance sled dog race series in the lower 48 states.

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The 40-mile race will be completed early Sunday evening. The 120-mile race will wrap up Monday morning. And, the 300-mile marathon will be done by Tuesday evening.

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is the premier long-distance sled dog race series in the lower 48 states.

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