What is the AuSable River Canoe Marathon?

The AuSable River Canoe Marathon, a.k.a. “The Marathon”, is a non-stop 120-mile, C-2 (two-person) canoe race held annually on the last full weekend in July. The race starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running start to the river in Grayling, MI, and ends the next day on the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI. The marathon is not a recreational canoe float. It is an ultra-competitive race that attracts professional paddlers from across the United States, Canada, and often teams from outside North America. Contestants must be in peak condition to compete in the race within the allotted time and endure the grueling and strenuous physical and mental strains that the marathon demands of the paddlers.

“Five Reasons Why the AuSable River Marathon is Canoeing’s Greatest Race”

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 Jock, in a 17-foot Old Towne 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.

Organizing Committee