The Murray Marathon is a 404 km, 5 day canoe/kayak flatwater race on the Murray River, bordering Victoria and New South Wales. From 2014, the event was renamed the YMCA Massive Murray Paddle. One of the longest annual flatwater canoe races in the world, it starts in Yarrawonga on 24 November in 2014 and heads downstream through Tocumwal, Picnic Point, Echuca, Torrumbarry and Murrabit before finishing in Swan Hill on 28 November 2014. The YMCA Massive Murray Paddle completes the Australian ultra-marathon canoeing circuit for the year, succeeding the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic which takes place in October.
The event began in 1969 with a few friends organising a fundraiser for the Australian Red Cross, who then managed the event as a major fundraiser. After running the Marathon for 40 years, the Australian Red Cross announced in July 2008 that they would be ending their association with the event. In November 2008 it was announced that the YMCA Victoria would be taking over the coordination of the event from 2009 onwards.
Under the auspice of the YMCA Victoria, since 2009 over A$300,000 has been raised to support local projects in the Murray River region. YMCA invests funds raised from the event back into building bright futures for young people in Victoria, and this includes programs for young people in the Murray River region.
There are also a number of lead up races to the event. These include the Echuca Mini and the Riverland Paddling Marathon.
Craft and entry classes
A wide range of classes cater for a wide range of craft, from racing canoes and kayaks as defined in the ICF regulations, through to touring craft as defined in Australian Canoeing regulations to surf skis, outrigger canoes and recreational paddle-craft such as sea kayaks. Adult entrants can choose to paddle full distance, half distance, or as part of a relay team over either the five day, three day or one day challenge. Junior entrants paddle a reduced distance, or as part of a junior or school relay team (which does the full distance).
The five days of the event are:
- Day 1, 24 November, 2014. Yarrawonga to Tocumwal. 93 km with 3 checkpoints/4 stages
- Day 2, 25 November, 2014. Tocumwal to Picnic Point. 94 km with 4 checkpoints/5 stages
- Day 3, 26 November, 2014. Picnic Point to Echuca. 78 km with 3 checkpoints/4 stages
- Day 4, 27 November, 2014. Echuca to Torrumbarry. 62 km with 3 checkpoints/4 stages
- Day 5, 28 November, 2014. Murrabit to Swan Hill. 77 km with 3 checkpoints/4 stages
Officials record each paddler's progress at every checkpoint for safety and time-keeping purposes. Checkpoints allow competitors and teams to change paddlers, pick up refreshments and rest during the event. Results and standings are posted daily during the event.
A section of the river between Torrumbarry and Murrabit is not paddled. The course is sometimes changed if river and access conditions dictate, but total distance is maintained as best as possible. In some years, difficulty accessing the checkpoints for Day 2 has seen the Day 1 course paddled twice.
The river is generally easy to paddle on, with plenty of deep water and currents of no more than about 3 knots. Some turbulence may be encountered on bends and a keen eye must be kept out for fallen trees which may extend well out into the river and be hidden below the surface of the water. Sections of the river are closed to recreational power boat traffic as the race passes through, but commercial (tourist) boat operations such as the paddle steamers in Echuca continue normal operations.
With volunteers, competitors and support crew numbers in the thousands, campsites are set up in various locations along the river. Scrutineering and official briefing is held the day before the race officially starts.
The weather can be as much of a challenge as the event itself. With the race usually being held in the middle of an Australian summer, temperatures of 45 °C have not been unusual. With the event now being held in the last week of November annually, remaining adequately hydrated and avoiding heat stroke are still vital considerations for all involved.
Cut-off times apply for all checkpoints and the daily finish line. The cut-off times are generous and participants of average ability are normally capable of completing the stages within the prescribed times. While the competition in some classes can be fierce, the challenge for many is simply to complete the distance rather than to win, and atmosphere of the race is relaxed and friendly.
[YMCA Murray Mahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/ymcavictoria/sets/72157632358286171/rathon photo gallery of the 2012 race YMCA Murray Marathon photo gallery of the 2012 race].