Racers Paddle Across The Missouri River In The MR340

Aug 13, 2014

MR340 racers begin to line up at the starting line.
MR340 racers begin to line up at the starting line.
Credit Matt Hodapp / KCUR

In the early morning hours of Aug. 12, boaters paddled into the Missouri River from Kaw Point in Kansas City, Kan., the launch site of the MR340. The ultra-marathon race offers participants only 88 hours to finish a voyage across Missouri.

The creator and organizer of the MR340, Scott Mansker, thinks what draws people from all over the world to take part in the race is that challenge of overcoming obstacles.

"We've sort of sanitized all the adventure out of our lives. When something like this comes along and someone hears about it, it scratches some itch in them and they feel like they need to be out there experiencing it," Mansker says.

For the past nine years, Mansker has operated a safety boat during the race, and still remembers a strong storm that rocked boaters the first year of the MR340. Scott says it was a powerful learning experience.

"We had to go out in that and help people who were tossed out of the river and up the bank from waves and wind. That was a pretty intense night," he says.

ManskerĀ thinks that the greatest challenge racers face isn't weather related.

"It's mental mostly," he says. "Your body is telling you for hundreds of miles to just give up and quit. But it seems like most of that gets overcome in the first 24 hours, and after that there's almost this euphoria."

"It's more about the distance and the challenge of getting from point A to point B," says Doug Jennings, one of this year's boaters from Kansas City.

Jennings has participated in the race for a number of years and has seen his fair share of danger out on the water.

"The first year I did it, a couple go run over by a barge. They had a couple scratches and busies but they made it. They survived," Jennings says.

After all the danger and adventure, the feeling of crossing the finish line after traveling 340 miles is fairly intense. But Jennings says that two to three hours later, the adrenaline stops pumping,

"You just zonk right out. I went to eat last year and fell right in the middle of a plate of nachos. My head went right down."

The racers will be completing their journey on Aug. 15 in St. Charles outside St. Louis, Mo.