Missouri River race is worlds longest canoe and kayak race

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JEFFERSON CITY - Racers are paddling 340 miles across the state with the goal of completing the world's longest canoe and kayak race.

The 11th annual Missouri American Water MR340 kicked off at 7 am Tuesday at Kaw Point Park in Kansas City, where the Missouri River and the Kansas River meet. Racers will cross the finish line in St. Charles. 

Race director Scott Mansker, whose organization River Miles founded the event, said his team has had a good season getting ready for the 2016 race.

"We have so many volunteers who have done this before, and sponsors who have helped us before that everything’s been pretty smooth getting ready," Mansker said. 

Missouri American Water signed on as lead sponsor of the race six years ago, said President Cheryl Norton.

"When we learned about the race, and the mission of bringing all different kinds of groups together to learn about the river and to kind of appreciate what a great resource the Missouri River is to the state, that’s when we wanted to become involved," Norton said. "We’re just thrilled to be a part of this because it just is so close to our mission as a water utility, that uses that water to serve our customers."

Race organizers officially stated that 600 participants had signed up for the race, but it could be more.

"I think the most exciting part of the race is bringing this many people out. There were literally a thousand people at the safety update last night, which was really cool," Norton said. 

Participants of all ages were present at the safety update. "I heard yesterday that we had actually an eleven year old that signed up to do this with family members, and we saw people who were probably in their 70s or 80s that will do this," Norton said. 

Norton added that she believes the endurance required for the MR340 race is the most impressive component.

"By the time people get to the finish line in St. Charles, they’re completely exhausted. Many of these people don’t sleep at all, over the period of 2 or 3 or 4 days, or they sleep an hour at a time, and so they’re completely exhausted cause they give it everything they have to be able to make it to the finish line. And not everyone finishes," Norton said. 

Race organizers have checkpoints along the Missouri River, where paddlers can enjoy ice water and take a break. Checking in is mandatory, but racers who do not wish to stop paddling have the option to check-in via cell phone. The fastest racers will pass through Jefferson City on Wednesday morning, according to Mansker. 

"The winners will probably get done in about 35 hours in St. Charles, and we allow 88 hours [to complete the race], so there’s a full two days between first place and last place," Mansker said.

David Treece of Columbia said this is his sixth year participating in MR340. 

"I finished three different times, the other two times I had a tough time, and I just keep coming back for more," he said. It took him 53 hours to reach St. Charles in his fastest race.  

Treece said he continues to race to push himself and test his limits. 

"You’re busy working 9 to 5, Monday through Friday and this is a huge relief. It’s very peaceful out on the River, and commodore with all my teammates and then all the other paddlers, it’s just a neat experience," he said. 

The race celebrates the Missouri River as a vital part of the state's environment, and as a source of drinking water to millions of people. 

Proceeds from the event go to environmental stewardship and education organizations - Missouri River Relief, the Healthy Rivers Partnership and the Lewis and Clark Nature Center and Boathouse.