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Alumni Profiles
reed magazine logoSpring 2009

Lawyer Trades Briefcase for Dogsled

You might expect a freshly minted law-school graduate to be polishing the resume, cramming for the bar, or watching Perry Mason reruns. Instead, Chad Lindner ’03 spent two weeks in March running the Iditarod, the notorious dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome across more than a thousand miles of Alaskan tundra.

It is difficult to convey the challenges of Iditarod Trail. Temperatures ranged from a balmy 40 degrees Fahrenheit along the treacherous Skwentna River in the southern Alaskan Range to minus 50 crossing the ice-encrusted Norton Sound. Hazards include everything from snow blindness to hallucinations to running short of food. One musher’s dogs died halfway through the trail.

Chad Lindner ’03

Chad Lindner ’03 at the finish line

Chad, a University of Michigan Law School graduate, had dog-sled racing in his blood long before he was a political science major at Reed. Born in Fairbanks, he started mushing as a boy with his father, Iditarod veteran Sonny Lindner, who won the inaugural Yukon Gold race in 1984. After passing the bar in Boston, Chad resumed training last summer in the small Alaska Interior town of Two Rivers, where sled dogs outnumber humans by about 4 to 1. By January father and son had both completed enough qualifying races to realize a long-held dream—to compete side by side in the Iditarod.

“Dog sledding was such a big part of my life that I’ve always been excited to run that trail,” Chad says.

His girlfriend of eight years, psychology major Lindsay Kanter ’01, took time off from her job with the Alaska Supreme Court to follow the progress of father and son via GPS locators. She was joined by more than a dozen friends and family members, including Zach Pegram ’05; Chad’s mother and stepfather, Sharon and Jerry Story of Wasilla; and political science professor Darius Rejali, who employed Chad as a research assistant at Reed.

“Until he crosses the finish line, we’re all going to be a little worried,” Lindsay said as Chad was 150 miles out. With good reason—out of the original lineup of 60-some mushers, more than a dozen eventually dropped out.

After 12 grueling days on the trail, Chad pushed across the finish line at 30th place—a tremendous accomplishment that earned him the Rookie of the Year award (father Sonny placed 11th). Another Reedie musher lawyer, Kirsten Bey ’77, who ran the Iditarod in 1993, presented Chad with a black-and-red Reed dog leash at the finishers banquet. On the run, he had to drop off a few of his dogs at checkpoints to prevent injuries and low morale (a real problem in racing packs). After the race, however, his remaining team of 13 dogs rested a few minutes amid the cheering crowd in Nome, then started jumping and barking, seemingly ready to run the race again.

For Chad, however, once was enough. “The one-time-deal thing was a decision I made early on in the process,” he says. “This was a great way to get another intensely meaningful experience, which is something I think that many Reedies can relate to.” Having survived the rigors of the Iditarod, he’s well-prepared for the next challenge: practicing law in Boston.

—Raymond Rendleman ’06

reed magazine logoSpring 2009