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The Long Run

Every year, in a little Norwegian town, a race starts. It's one of the toughest dog sled races in the world, dominated by rock hard Nordic men. In 2019 someone different turns up at the start. She's 5'1", 35 years old and she's racing for Ireland. (2020)

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Documentary Maker: Donal O'Herlihy

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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The Long Run

It's the morning of Feb 1st 2019 in the tiny Norwegian town of Roros. The temperature is minus 16 degrees. Roros is unfeasibly beautiful. The Disney film Frozen was set in this place.

The rooves of its timber shops and little houses are covered with a perfect layer of snow. But this chocolate box beauty belies what’s about to happen. Because today in this normally peaceful, snowbound haven it’s chaotic and deafeningly noisy.

The reason for this is that forty teams of sledding dogs are in town. These dogs pull racing sleds in groups of 12. The barking and howling is hair raising and can be heard for miles around.

They are here for a race - a very long race. As a matter of fact it will go on for 650 kilometres through desperate conditions in temperatures as low as minus 30. It’s one of the most arduous challenges in all of sport. It’s called the Femundlopet.

The human beings who drive these canine teams are known as mushers. One look around the start line tells you the type they are. Huge heavy set Nordic men with thick beards on weather beaten faces. They are the best the world of mushing has to offer.

In the midst of the crowd is competitor number 37. This musher looks a little different. She’s a bespectacled 5 foot 1 woman in her thirties. Furthermore she’s racing the Femund for Ireland, a nation with no earthly business turning up at one of the world’s most iconic endurance dog races. 

Her name is Helen aims to do what many tell her she can’t. To finish the Femund. Not satisfied with that she wants to finish it in the top twenty of this elite field.

Has she lost her senses? Only the race will tell.

The Long Run tells the story of a remarkable woman, 12 remarkable dogs and a remarkable race.

Since Helen Mullane complete the Femundløpet, she continues to live in Sweden and sled dogs with Petter Karlsson. Helen has also published a critically acclaimed folk-horror graphic novel, entitled 'Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen' and it’s out now.

Narrated by Donal O'Herlihy

Produced by Donal O'Herlihy and Liam O'Brien

This story was brought to the Documentary on One by Emma Gilbert

First broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 - Saturday 13th of June @2PM

Repeated on RTÉ Radio 1 - Sunday 14th of June @7PM

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries

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