A local man not only finished the more than 1,000-mile Iditarod trail by foot this past weekend - he also won the race.
After about a month away from home - in deadly, cold conditions - Peter Ripmaster touched down Tuesday afternoon at Asheville Regional Airport.
Kristen Ripmaster surprised her husband with their two daughters and a few dozen loved ones. They were anxiously awaiting Peter's homecoming from his connecting flight in Atlanta.
Peter started the race in Anchorage, Alaska, and arrived about 1,000 miles away at the finish line of the Iditarod Invitational in Nome at about 4:45 a.m. exactly a month after leaving his family in late February.
"They have a 350-mile trek and then a 1,000-mile trek," Kristen said. "So, he did the 350 the first two years. [He] attempted the 1,000 the third year. That's when he fell through the ice and got to 500 miles. And then he tried it last year. The temperatures were negative 60, people were getting frost bitten."
There were six runners with only two finishing, including Peter.
"He did win. Yes, so he went from red lantern, the very first year of ever trying to do the Iditarod, which was a 350-mile, he came in dead last. That's what they call the red lantern," Kristen said. "I think it's been five years now that he's been going out there, and five years later he won the 1,000-mile trek."
Five years later, he got to come home to a crowd of family and fans celebrating his arrival at the airport with signs and balloons.
"I hope people can learn from it and see that perseverance is important, you know, not giving up on yourself," Peter said. "That Iditarod is important to me and always has been since I've been a little kid, but this is everything to me. So, to come home and know that I'm safe and I took care of myself means the world to me, and I'm really honored to be a father and to give some energy to my family now, who deserves it. I've missed my wife's birthday for five years in a row, so that ain't gonna happen next year, so, I think we're gonna go someplace warm."
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