GRAYLING — Participants in the 74th Au Sable River Canoe Marathon are gearing up for a particularly tough race this weekend.
Low water levels will create challenges for participants on their 120-mile non-stop trek from Grayling to Lake Huron.
The race starts on Saturday evening and can last until 7 p.m. The teams will compete to beat the record time – which currently stands at just under 14 hours.
Marathon spokesman Phil Weiler said the race was not for the faint-hearted, even under the best of conditions. Water levels will create additional obstacles.
“It’s going to be brutal, it’s going to take a toll on them,” Weiler said. “It’s not really a slide with your boat. There are things you hit now.
Weiler said the ultra-endurance race will have record attendance this year with around 100 teams competing for the best time.
The 2021 winners and defending champions – Jorden Wakeley (31, Grayling, MI) and Matt Meersman (44, South Bend, IN) – set a new AuSable marathon all-time record of 13 hours and 54 minutes during the victory last year.
“We expect the 2022 Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon to be a crowd pleaser,” Weiler said in a press release. “The defending champions are back and six former AuSable Marathon champions, in total, are entered in the race. We have a record number of teams entered and a very competitive field from top to bottom. A number of new AuSable marathons and individual records are expected to be set.
Weiler said he expects fan attendance to be high weather permitting. He said many gather at the start of the race with up to 50,000 tunes in the hours that follow.
“There are between 10 and 15,000 fans at the start, and when they turn that corner… it just gives you goosebumps,” he said.
There are GPS trackers on each canoe allowing online spectators to follow their favorite teams on the 120-mile river course as well as social media coverage of the race.
To follow the race online, visit the Au Sable Canoe Marathon website or find the race on Facebook.
Mike Livingston is a Report for America corps member and Mackinac Straits Bureau reporter covering rural life in northern Michigan. Contact him at [email protected] Your donation to match our Report for America grant helps him keep writing stories like this; please consider making a tax-deductible donation today at https://www.interlochenpublicradio.org/