KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hundreds of people are normally involved in the MR 340 race that travels down the Missouri River from Kaw Point to St. Charles.
That won’t be the case this year, but a few remain.
“Quit is just not in my vocabulary,” canoe and kayaker Joe Mann said.
The 340-mile race usually takes place in July, but this year flooding on the Mighty Mo delayed the race, pushing it all the way into November.
But a little winter weather isn’t going to steer Mann away from competing in his twelfth MR 340.
“Standing here and you know it’s 18 degrees outside. There’s snow. There’s ice on the ground. I mean, this is not something you think, ‘Yeah, OK, let’s go canoe,'” Mann said. “This is something very unique.”
Race Director Scott Mansker said more than 500 boats and 700 people from all over the world signed up for the July race. That’s now down to just four people.
“Three boats of the initial 550 boats were left that said, ‘Yeah we could give that a try for 34 hours,'” Mansker said.
Two men from Michigan, who are used to cold water, and a solo pedaler from St. Louis will take on Mann.
Now that it’s November, there are safety measures in place for the four racers.
Mansker said competitors have to go the 340 miles in 34 hours or less, which is about 50 hours less than what an average racer can do.
“Every canoe in the race is going to have a safety boat just off their shoulder, watching over them, and if they need anything at all they can get in the boat, get warm and be safe,” Mansker said.
Mann holds the record for the men’s solo division.
He also understands there’s a risk with the water being frigid, but he’s confident in his abilities and open water rescue training in cold conditions. So he’s focusing on finishing the race and building bonds.
“I’m sure we’re going to have an experience that is extremely unique, right? Four people doing this race in the middle of November,” Mann said. “So to me it’s not a race, it’s an adventure. It’s an expedition. It’s a chance for bonding.”
Mann and his competitors will head out Friday morning. They’ll have 34 hours to get from Kaw Point to St. Charles.