Marathon paddling isn’t just for the elite. Anyone with an interest in fitness and paddling can successfully take up the sport. In Canada there are groups of marathon paddlers throughout the country training on nearby streams, creeks, rivers and lakes. There are wide array of races nationally and internationally at both the recreational and high performance levels.
Many of those interested in marathon canoeing have some paddling experience and come from another discipline. For others paddling is completely new and they’re just looking for a new challenge.
The classic style of marathon canoeing is a great way to stay active and is particularly popular amongst adults. Some may start with recreational canoeing moving up to competition boats. People often start with a shorter, local races and work their way up to the big multi-day stage races. With experience, paddlers refine their technique to become efficient and able to sustain technique over longer and longer distances. Racing skills are refined by working on elements like tactics, portaging, recovery strategies and nutrition. Many marathon paddlers participate in a variety of other endurance sports like running or cross-country skiing as they love being outdoors and challenging themselves physically.
Marathon races can be found across Canada – often tied to canoe routes paddled by the voyageur explorer as they opened up our great country. Races vary in distance from several hours up to several days. Canada is home to one of the most prestigious marathon races in North America, La Classique de Shawinigan, as well as what is billed as the longest race in the World, the Yukon River Quest. Raced along the same route travelled by the gold seekers the Great Klondike Gold Rush, the Quest follows the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City. Local races reflect the local history including races in 6-10 person north canoes and voyageur boats.
International Canoe Federation style races use similar equipment and many of the same elements as sprint paddling. For this reason many paddlers in this class come from a sprint background and cater their training to longer distances. Every year a Canadian Team competes at World Championships in early fall. The team is comprised of marathon paddlers as young as 15 all the way up to masters athletes in their 70s. The team is selected based on specified criteria usually involving an application process in the spring and trials at National Championships for events for classes where there is more interest than available entries.