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 (EMTA), and they were at the all–night truck–stop restaurant 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; the test run took them 31 hours of paddling. 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.” After the trial run by Brubaker and Jocks, a meeting was held in Mio on April 22th, 1947, by members of the EMTA, discussing the planning of the First Annual Michigan Canoe Championship. The first race was held September 6th & 7th, 1947, and the race would eventually come to be known as the AuSable River Canoe Marathon. Brubaker became General Chairman for the first race and sponsored a team for the first ten years.