The mission of the non-profit, volunteer organizing committee – AuSable River International Canoe Marathon, Inc. (ARICM) – is to organize and promote the annual AuSable River Canoe Marathon, generate public exposure of the communities in the AuSable River Valley, and increase awareness of our unique natural resource: The AuSable River.
What is the AuSable River Canoe Marathon?
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon, a.k.a. “The Marathon”, is a non-stop canoe race that starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running-start to the river in Grayling, MI, and ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI. Contestants must navigate the narrow, winding upper stretch in total darkness, as well as stump-filled ponds and the blazing July sun in the lower stretch. This race is not a recreational canoe float, but a professional, ultra-competitive race with the very best professional paddlers from around North and Central America. Contestants must be in peak condition in order to complete the race in the allotted time, and to endure the grueling and strenuous physical and mental strains The Marathon demands of the paddlers.
For a better understanding of the demands of the race please read an article by Dave Foley, who paddled in 1990. Dave’s experience is well documented and any paddler considering entering this race for the first time should read this article and consider Dave’s advice. Contestants new to the Marathon may also want to review the five-part video AuSable Marathon Course Description Playlist created by Jeff Rankinen that is posted on the AuSable River Canoe Marathon’s YouTube Channel.
How Did It All Begin?
The idea for the original Marathon developed over a cup of coffee at Si ‘n Gerts Restaurant in Oscoda, in 1947. Howard Brubaker, then president of the Oscoda Chamber of Commerce, was brainstorming with Frank Davis. Davis was then the executive manager of the Eastern Michigan Tourist Association, and they were at the all-night truck-stop trying to come up with an idea for a tourist draw to the area after Labor Day. A canoe race was suggested, and the two men decided they would check with Grayling, Roscommon, and Mio along the AuSable River to see if it was feasible. Brubaker agreed to make the contacts, and found officials along the way more than interested.
All agreed that a trial run should be made, but they could not rustle up volunteers to make the trip. Brubaker teamed up with Percy Jocks, in a 17-foot Old Town canoe, and launched the run personally. They wanted to see, first of all, if it could be done, how long it would take, and if the canoes could move at night. They launched from Grayling on a Monday morning, around 9:00 a.m., and did not arrive in Oscoda until Wednesday afternoon. Brubaker said, “at Mio, I was ready to throw in the sponge.” He and Jocks ran into a heavy thunderstorm, and the pup tent they slept in one night collapsed on them. They were tipped over by a sweeper (a limb from a tree), and after the run was over, it took a full week to recuperate. “It was very rugged,” he said, “but we knew it could be run.” Brubaker then became General Chairman for the race and sponsored a team for the first ten years.