In the Kuskokwim 300, even the last musher to finish is in on the money. David Fitka of Marshall received the 2019 K300 Red Lantern Award for being the 18th and final musher to complete this year’s K300. He finished his race Tuesday afternoon, the day after the awards banquet where all the other mushers publicly received their winnings. The K300 Race Committee wanted Fitka to also receive public recognition, so they gathered in the live KYUK studio with Fitka on Wednesday afternoon, where K300 Race Manager Madelene Reichard did the honors.
“So we have the check for David, and for 18th place he gets to take home $4,272," Reichard announced live on the air. "So congratulations. We’re very proud of you. Very persistent, that was the word that kept being used this weekend when we were discussing your race.”
With the red lantern sitting next to him, Fitka accepted the check. “Thank you very much," he said. "Persistence, I guess, was the key word for the whole trip. Hanging in there, withstanding the test of time and patience.”
The 57-year-old Fitka last ran the K300 over a decade ago in 2007. He says that in some ways, not much has changed.
“The trail is still long," he said, laughing.
Fitka was proud of his new team for making it the 300 miles. He said that he burnt them out at the start of the race by running too fast, but managed to pull them back and finish with five dogs. Fitka jointly owns his kennel with his daughter Jaylene, and together they only had about two months to train for the event.
“It sort of worked out," he explained. "We didn’t have the summer training, so we’re making plans for next season.”
Fitka says that he’ll be back in the K300 next year.