26-mile extreme swimming race on Red River set for July
Being Matthew Webb may not be on the bucket list of most swimmers. But area residents who seek an experience similar to Webb's, the first person to swim across the English Channel, will get their chance this summer. The Extreme North Dakota Water...
Being Matthew Webb may not be on the bucket list of most swimmers.
But area residents who seek an experience similar to Webb's, the first person to swim across the English Channel, will get their chance this summer.
The Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test , a more than 26-mile marathon up the Red River, should satisfy the appetite of even the most ambitious open-water swimmers.
Swimming is only one of the race categories, which also include kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding.
The race is scheduled for July 21, with racers starting in Grand Forks in the morning and heading downstream to Olso, Minn.
Organizer Andy Magness, 36, said the race for swimmers and boat racers alike should be a physical and mental test.
"We try to make sure we're catering to a strained subset of the population that really wants to push themselves," he said. "We try to create a race where if someone wants an extreme challenge, it's there for you."
History of adventure races
Extreme North Dakota has organized over a dozen races since its inception in 2007. Andy's twin brother, Jason Magness, put on an adventure race in October that year, but the adventure scene was dormant for nearly two years when Jason left Grand Forks.
Andy returned from living in New Zealand and picked up where his brother left off, organizing another race in the fall of 2009.
Now the group holds five races a year, including an IceMan Triathlon and a 24-hour endurance race that takes place near Pembina, N.D.
In adding the race down the Red River, Andy Magness said the group hopes to remove some of the negative connotations associated with the river.
"It's much maligned and feared for a number of reasons," Magness said. "One thing we have to do is change the perception of the river as both dangerous and dirty."
The race also will be held in conjunction with Oslo Days, the town's summer festival.
Magness said the race will actually be 26.7 miles as opposed to the typical 26.2-mile marathon because of a slightly longer length from docking stations.
Test of endurance
Magness said he hopes to have six swimmers in the solo swim category. One person who has been confirmed to attend is Darren E. Miller, a swimmer from Belmont Penn.
Miller is attempting to become the first person to complete the "Ocean's Seven" challenge, swimming's version of the "Seven Summits."
The challenge includes swimming seven major straits or channels in different regions of the world.
Miller told Magness he expects to complete the course in about 9 hours.
For comparison, Webb completed his longer 39-mile course across the English Channel in less than 22 hours.
Magness said each solo swimmer will have one canoe following them for safety purposes.
There also will be relay teams made up of two to six swimmers.
"We'd love to get six teams out on the water," Magness said. "The team event will be a lot more accessible. If you've got six people on a team, you'll be swimming the mileage you would for a normal workout on a high school swim team."
Magness is estimating the teams will take between eight and 10 hours to complete the course.
Those who enter in the kayak, canoe or paddleboard categories will need to provide their own equipment.
Magness expects around 30 boats for that portion of the race, which will depart later than the swimmers.
He said there are a number of kayak or canoe fanatics in the area, but paddleboarding hasn't gained the same popularity in the area.
Magness said a member of the Canadian paddleboarding team will be in attendance to give an exhibition.
"They're great for rivers and lakes," he said. "In California, they're extraordinarily popular."
Because of an ordinance against swimming in rivers and coulees in city limits, the group had to petition the Grand Forks City Council to get clearance to run the race.
On Monday, the group got permission and will attempt to get approval from East Grand Forks City Council next week. They also will need approval from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The racers will have to get out of the water only once to go around a pedestrian bridge that Magness said is about 1 mile north of Gateway Drive.
He said the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department will be help swimmers and boaters get in and out safely.
Reach Bieri at (701) 780-1118; (800) 477-6572, ext. 118; or send email to email@example.com .