WINDSOR, N.S. - Bradley Farquhar has accomplished many things in his life, but the Iditarod dog sled race may have been his most trying one to date.
With a team of Alaskan Huskies, he trekked across some of the harshest and most strikingly beautiful terrain imaginable. He travelled 1,000 miles, from Anchorage to Nome.
He talked about his experience with a group of students at his former high school to show that goals, no matter how trying, can be achieved if you set your mind to it.
“This is home, this is where I grew up,” Farquhar said following his presentation to students at Avon View High School. “When I look at the kids out there, I’m the exact same as they are. I’m not going to hold myself up on a pedestal. In fact, some of the kids out there can probably accomplish way more than I have.”
Farquhar, who grew up near Smiley’s Park in Brooklyn, showed a 15-minute video of his race. His sled was covered in cameras to capture every moment.
“It’s good for them to see a trail that’s blazed that they can either follow or at least get inspiration from,” he said. “Around here in Windsor, sometimes there’s not a lot for kids to do and they can get themselves into trouble or get lost.”
This isn’t the first school Farquhar has visited, and it likely won’t be his last. He’s hoping his message of determination will resonate with kids.
Farquhar said some schools ask how much his fee is to speak, but he does it for free so he can share his story.
“The best part is the journey,” he said.
Farquhar said the Iditarod was a physically and emotionally exhausting 12 days.
“When you get past the finish line, you’re finished, it’s done. So it’s exciting, after going through all of that and going through all of the obstacles, but it gets sad," he said.
“Out on the trail it’s an emotional rollercoaster, but that doesn’t even show the two years of training that you need just to get to the starting line. It’s very draining; it’s tough.”
Farquhar also brought along one of his closest companions to the presentation: his Alaskan Husky Jerry, who he brought back to Nova Scotia after completing the Iditarod.
He met Jerry in Alaska during his training, but the two developed a strong bond, and Jerry eventually went on to lead the sled team. There was no way Farquhar was leaving him behind.
“When I did my first four months of training, he chose me,” he said. “I just thought he was the coolest dog, always wanting to be around me and playing, wagging his tail. I knew I wanted to be with this dog.”
Farquhar nurtured that connection, bringing Jerry in the house with him. Sometimes, all 16 dogs would be inside with him. He said the connection to the sled team is crucial for success.
“You spend so much time with your dogs that they become your friends, they become the closest thing to you,” he said. “Not bringing (Jerry) back sounded scary; he’s almost a piece of me. I love the little guy, even when he causes trouble, I still can’t help myself and hug him.”
Farquhar, who found success in the U.S. in sales positions in the solar power industry, said he’s not really sure what he wants to do next, but he is hoping to start some businesses in his home province.
One adventure he is considering is the Barkley Marathon in Tennessee, a gruelling 100-mile race through Frozen Head State Park. It’s so intense, nobody finished it in 2018.
But his real goal? The final frontier.
“I want to go to space,” he said. “Is there any better challenge and journey than leaving Earth? I will do it, I will go to space.”
It’s published, so now he has to.
'A success story to show the kids'
Sean Connolly, a teacher at Avon View High School, said it was a thrill to bring a former student back to share his story.
“At the old Hants West Rural High School, I had the opportunity to teach Brad Grade 9 English and also coach him with wrestling,” Connolly said, adding that he’s retained a close connection with Farquhar. “He’s a very personable, charismatic guy, and I’d bump into him after he graduated and kept up with how he was doing.”
Farquhar eventually graduated from Avon View High School, before heading to Saint Mary’s University.
“He’s swam the English Channel, he’s run with the bulls, he’s climbed mountains, and it’s a success story to show the kids that someone from here had a goal and went out to achieve that goal,” Connolly said.
“Despite the fame of the Iditarod race, I think the core principle behind it all is the goal and working hard for it.”