Hale brothers make history at the Iron Dog

Joseph and Israel Hale arriving in Nome during the 2021 Iron Dog. (Kevin Fox/KNOM)

On Saturday, Joseph and Israel Hale became the first disabled team to ever finish the full 2,600-mile Iron Dog race. KNOM caught up with these rookies, now finishers, in the garage during their layover in Nome.

On Feb. 15, the brothers had been the first team into Nome as racers trickled in ahead of their restart.

“We were coming into Nome, and I hadn’t done a lot of praying that we could win or anything like that, but I was like, ‘Lord, keep these snow machines running; we’d really like to be first into Nome today.’ And he answered my prayer by 18 seconds, so you can’t beat that,” Joseph said.

Joseph is the elder brother. He rides with his younger brother Israel, who is a double amputee. The brothers participated in the Iron Dog last year, in the trail class.

“We pulled in here first in the trail class teams by about 7 hours, I think,” said Israel.

Joseph laughed.

“I don’t quite think it’s that much,” he said.

But what’s driving them to compete at the pro level? Israel fielded that question.

“Mostly to inspire people to push forward in life despite issues of disability,” he said. “And just do something that’s never been done. For both of us, it was just to do something that most people think is impossible or we kind of even thought might be impossible ourselves.”

Israel Hale was in his early twenties when he was hit by a car traveling at 50 mph while he was working on a collapsed trailer on the side of the road. He lost his legs.

While recovering and regaining his strength, he began taking snowmachining much more seriously, even with the challenges of navigating the sport as a double amputee.

On Saturday afternoon in Big Lake, the Hale brothers became the first ever disabled team to cross the pro-class Iron Dog finish line. Before concluding their interview at the garage with KNOM, Joseph asked to part with a message for anyone listening.

“Don’t give up spirit even when life is hard because life comes at us from all different angles. And some days it’s really hard,” he said. “Out on the race, the trail is really hard. People have no idea the challenge. If you put your mind and heart to it and it’s what you want to do, you can make yourself do it. It’s not always going to be easy, but easy isn’t always good. Not just the race, but anything in life whether it’s work or family or anything.”

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