GRAYLING, MI– Nearly 100 two-person marathon teams hauled their canoes through the streets of Grayling in a LeMans-style dash to the AuSable River to kick off the start of the 120-mile, 14 hour plus, ultra non-stop -endurance event: Consumers Energy’s 74th AuSable River Canoe Marathon.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 frenzied fans packed into the small north-central Michigan town (normally home to 2,000 residents), all fueled by an adrenaline rush that is most felt at the sound of the kick gun.
All of these fans will be cheering on the ultra-athletes as they begin their competitive run into the night.
This race is not for the faint hearted, only the most accomplished canoe marathon racers have the training and experience to compete at this level. The frenetic pace combined with the non-stop aspect of the AuSable Marathon sets it apart from many other canoe races. Stealthy, highly technical racing canoes weigh thirty pounds or less, with paddles weighing as little as six ounces.
Teams will paddle non-stop at approximately 50-80 paddle strokes per minute for 120 miles while battling natural obstacles in the river.
First in the dark, then under the dazzling sun of the day; participants will wear six Consumers Energy hydroelectric dams regardless of weather conditions, possible injuries and exhaustion.
Winners will reach the finish line in Oscoda, on the shores of Lake Huron, between 11 a.m. and noon on Sunday, July 31.
A time limit is imposed throughout the race and teams must complete the course within 19 hours to be recognized as official finishers.
According to spokesman Phil Weiler, the 2022 edition of the marathon is expected to be a crowd pleaser.
“The defending champions are back, plus six former AuSable Marathon champions, in total, are entered in the race,” Weiler said. “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 should be set.
The defending 2021 contest champions – Jorden Wakeley (31, Grayling, MI) and Matt Meersman (44, South Bend, IN) – set a new all-time AuSable marathon record of 13:54:09 (13 hours, 54 minutes, 9 seconds) in last year’s win.
The powerful Quebec duo made up of Steve Lajoie and Guillaume Blais is one of the teams expected to face the former champions.
Another factor that distinguishes this race from other ultra-endurance events is the commitment of its fans.
Up to 50,000 fans are expected to attend at least part of the race in person.
Regular radio updates are carried by Black Diamond Broadcasting’s WUPS 98.5 and other stations on the AuSable River Marathon radio network. There are also GPS trackers on every entered canoe, which contributes to the extensive social media coverage of the race and allows online spectators to follow their favorite teams on the 120-mile river course.
Weiler says fans should check out the AuSable River Canoe Marathon Facebook page or, for a comprehensive overview including in-person and online fan information as well as links to other resources, visit the marathon website at : AuSableCanoeMarathon.org.
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon will begin at 9 p.m. on July 30 and will continue through July 31 as competitors head for the finish line.
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