Swimming, paddling marathon starts in Grand Forks, ends in Oslo, Minn.The race is on for a diverse group of extreme athletes that plan to swim or paddle the Red River on Saturday from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minn. — a distance of nearly 27 miles.
By: TJ Jerke, Grand Forks Herald
The race is on for a diverse group of extreme athletes that plan to swim or paddle the Red River on Saturday from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minn. — a distance of nearly 27 miles.
One is a swimmer from Pittsburgh whose life’s goal is to swim seven ocean channels, including the English Channel and the Strait of Gibraltar.
One is a swimmer from Chicago who, bored with freestyle swimming in open-water races, does all of them using what many consider the most difficult swimming style.
One is a former racewalker from Elizabethtown, Pa., who injured his back and turned to long distance swimming at the age of 39.
They and 30 other swimmers and paddlers will be testing their mettle Saturday in an aquatic marathon on the Red River. The Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test, or END-WET, will follow a nearly 27-mile route along the meandering river from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minn.
ENDracing, the group organizing the event, is known for other extreme races in the region including a winter triathlon and an upcoming 24-hour adventure race. But this is the group’s first river race.
“We love the river, so this would be a great opportunity for people to spend some time by the river and to see some of the potential for river use, which most don’t look at the river the way we do,” said ENDracing founder Andy Magness.
The race includes solo and two-person kayaking, individual stand-up paddleboarding, individual swimming and relay swimming.
The swim race kicks off Saturday at 7 a.m. followed by the paddlers, both kayak and standup paddleboards, at 11:30 a.m. From there, the races will make their way north to Oslo, where it will end during the city’s summer festival, “Oslo Days.”
Magness said the race is bringing top-notch swimmers to Grand Forks from around the country, and world — as well as athletes from the area.
“I’m really excited to bring that caliber of talent to town,” he said. “We see potential of this being significant, something we see growing over the next few years.”
Darren Miller, the swimmer from Pittsburgh, has swam five of the Ocean’s Seven, a challenge to swim seven of the most difficult straits in the world, according to his website and news reports. Last Saturday, he swam the 12-mile Tsugaru Channel in Japan.
Dan “Mr. Butterfly” Projansky, the swimmer from Chicago, is known for swimming long distances doing the butterfly stroke, according to news reports. He mostly does this in 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) races and the Red River race will be his longest yet.
Leonard Jansen, the swimmer from Elizabeth town, once competed as a racewalker and coached U.S. Olympic racewalkers, he told Rose Pintof Swim organizers. But the chronic pain of his back injury kept him from the sport. Now he swims in long-distance open-water races, including the 8-mile Boston Light Swim and the 17-mile Pintonof swim from Manhattan to Coney Island.
If you go: Spectators can get a good view of the start of END-WET from the Sorlie Bridge on Demers Avenue. The Greenway paralleling the river will also provide a good view.
Swimmers will start at 8 a.m. Paddlers will start at 11:30 a.m.
The progress of the participants will be displayed on large five-foot maps at three downtown locations: Dakota Harvest, 17 N. Third St.; The Blue Moose, 507 Second St. N.E., East Grand Forks; and Town Square, DeMers Avenue and Third Street, Grand Forks.
Maps will also be available at Dakota Harvest and online at www.ENDracing.com.
Reach Jerke at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1736; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Herald Staff Writer Tu-Uyen Tran contributed to this story.