COLUMBIA — Three days, 340 miles, hundreds of paddlers, safety boats, ground support teams, volunteers and crowds from different cities. What do all of these things have in common? MR340, the longest nonstop canoe and kayak race in the world.
The race began in Kansas City on Tuesday; paddlers will travel on the Missouri River all the way to St. Charles.
There are multiple checkpoints and different stops paddlers can choose to take a break at. However, this race is different because it does not require the competitors to stop.
There are 13 different divisions that competitors could choose to compete in.
Karin Thomas is currently the safety boat captain. She has been part of the process since the beginning 16 years ago.
"I've been doing it for, I guess all 16 years," Thomas said. "I was a race organizer with Scott for a number of years and then pulled away from that and now I drive the safety boat."
Thomas and her support crew are one of many safety boats patrolling the waters and keeping an eye out on the competitors.
"We're on call all night long," Thomas said.
She said this event is more than just a race for her. It was an opportunity to rediscover herself aside from her many other responsibilities.
“When I am out here the rest of the world disappears," Thomas said. "When I am out there, I'm just me in my purest form and nothing else is attached."
She said one of her favorite parts is the paddlers.
"The resilience of the paddlers," Thomas said. "It's an amazing way for people to discover themselves, in addition to supporting the river. I love that it gives people this life experience that you just can’t get in any other way."
Two paddlers are from Wisconsin, and one came all the way from Alaska to be part of this race.
Brad Roosma, Liam Roosma and Chris Wilson paddle a three person canoe and have dubbed their team Buoyah.
Wilson and Brad Roosma have been training in Wisconsin for the past six months. Liam said he picked up a paddle about a month ago.
Brad Roosma said his favorite part is the camaraderie.
"We're all getting to learn, learn about each other," Brad Roosma said. "Get to know each other more."
Wilson said things can be pretty comical.
"We just try to keep each other going," Wilson said. "We're egging each other on and pushing each other to keep moving one mile closer to the finish line."
The three agreed and said they could not do it without the help from their ground support.
Brad Roosma's wife and Wilson's wife and daughter meet them at their stops, but not only to cheer them on.
The women clean the canoe if needed, provide meals, restock for the next trip, and even prepare a tent and place for them to sleep. They drive ahead to the next stop or checkpoint to prepare for the paddlers' arrival.
You can track the paddlers as they finish their race by Friday.