Some people seek out adventure on the occasional weekend. Steve Watkins looks for it every day.

“There’s nothing like a strong, compelling, physical challenge to get you up and get you motivated,” he says.

It’s what led him to the armed forces in 1999.

“I never thought I’d serve in a war, much less two wars,” he said.

Watkins would be deployed to Afghanistan as an Airborne Army Ranger, and from there to almost every forward operating base in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until a serious injury changed his course.

Watkins 1Watkins was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. After a lifetime of service, he found himself in need of a new mission: the Iditarod.

“It kinda reminds me of being on a military patrol, where things can be beautiful and picturesque but then turn south very fast,” he says. “Being out here is just … It’s therapeutic.”

He thinks about his dogs, the trail ahead and his fellow veterans who deal with the stress of war.

“So many veterans feel like the most significant part of their life is over,” Watkins says. “And that leads to depression and that leads to suicide, and if there is one message I could give veterans it would be that just because our great wars are over doesn’t mean our lives can’t be significant and full of adventure.”

Waktins DenaliThat’s why Watkins’ adventure won’t end with the Iditarod.

“Because as a rookie, mushing a thousand miles from Anchorage to Nome is not difficult enough, so I thought, ‘What could I do to make this even less likely to happen?’ And so I thought, ‘I will climb Mt. Everest,’ and like any good goal, I told everyone, so now I’m on the hook,” he says.

A long race, followed by a long climb — he’s training for distance — and even has a plan to combat the cold.

“I dance club because it’s a way to stay warm,” he says. “Very grandiose hip hop like “Hip Hop Hooray.”

Because sometimes best way to fight an impossible challenge is to dance your way through it.


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