Overcoming Life’s Physical & Mental Challenges with Dog Musher Katherine Keith

Nobody is born with mental or physical grit. It’s something you develop over time, by facing challenging situations and making it through to the other side. This week, dog musher and author Katherine Keith talks about overcoming grief and loss and the importance of grit. As a teenager, she solo hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Then, she moved to Alaska, where she began running dogs. In the years since, she’s successfully competed in both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, two of the most difficult long-distance dog races in the world. 

Both races saw Keith and her dog team venture 1,000 miles deep into the Alaskan and Canadian wilderness in the bitter cold of winter. The hardships on the trail pushed her past her breaking point, but also helped her build the mental strength to keep going, mile after mile, to the finish line. It’s in those most challenging and solitary moments that you can find the most beauty, she says.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Remember to fully engage with life
  • Fight your way back from a loss
  • Develop mental grit to push through obstacles
  • Spend time in nature to build health and happiness
  • Look outside yourself for inspiration and motivation


“The most challenging part of the race is always the greatest opportunity for beauty on the trail.” -Katherine Keith

“Whether you’re at work at a desk or you’ve had a relationship that just broke up or whether you’re running a 5K and you haven’t slept all night and you just can’t take another step, that’s when your past comes up to haunt you. You’re gonna feel like you have a weak soul. You feel like you’re out of control with things. For me, back on the Pacific Crest Trail, I just had to take one step in front of the other. I just had to keep going on down the trail. It’s through that process that I learned how to manage my life.” -Katherine Keith

“There are other people around you that you need to take care of and something larger than yourself that helps you get through your breaking point. That’s one way to help generate grit to get through that breaking point is remembering to look outside yourself.” -Katherine Keith

“When we are hit with loss, we have a state of shock we’re in, but sometimes this extends for a long period of time, where we stay numb for years or stay hurt for years. That’s why I feel having grit is important. We have to be able to fight our way back to the surface and begin living again.” -Katherine Keith

“Everybody has to find their own path.” -Katherine Keith


You can find out more about Katherine Keith on her website, katherinekeith.com. That’s also where you can learn about her “Find Wilderness, Find Wellness” retreats planned for this spring. You can follow her on Facebook @EpicSolitude, on Instagram @katherine.keith, and on Twitter @KatKeith. And, check out her new book Epic Solitude: A Story of Survival and a Quest for Meaning in the Far North.

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Episode 182