When Ralph Frese started the Des Plaines River Marathon 59 years ago to give his boy scouts (for whom he built 500 canoes) an activity – he probably never envisioned the race would continue for this long. But now the event, sponsored by Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserves, as well as L L Bean, just wrapped up its 59th year, with its 60th anniversary coming up quickly.
After a wet cold, spring, the sunshine gods smiled, serving up an almost perfect day with good water levels and weather, not too fast but quick enough for fast finish times. The last boat was off the water almost an hour sooner than some other years.
Another bonus was no dams to portage any more, thanks to their recent removal.
Robert Hartman of Holland Michigan had the day’s fastest time, coming in at 2 hours 5 minutes in the Unlimited Kayak division, followed by Kiril Floriv of Countryside, Ill., in a kayak in the Open division with a time of 2:14.
The day’s fastest canoe was the team of Mark Koenig (Woodstock, IL) and Fritz Hansen (Burlington, WI) with a time of 2:22, followed by Neil Weisner-Hanks and Beth Schlueter (Oconomowoc, WI) at 2:24.
Mike Brumbaugh of Roseville, MN, finished the SUP division first in 2:47.
The largest class was the Men’s recreational Kayak with 89 kayaks finishing. At least five paddlers in their 80s finished the race, with James Des Jardins the eldest at 86. Eric Luth made his annual pilgrimage from Arizona, the furthest traveler.
As in years past, once again the event supported a charitable organization related to paddlesport or river conservation. This year over $300 was raised by participants for the Chicago Voyageurs, an organization that helps at risk youth with outdoor adventures. Some of the boys also paddled the Minithon with registration fees waived with their sponsors.
After the race, there was good music and good food and the good fellowship among the paddlers – a good day for a picnic
DPRM by the numbers:
650 people starting the long race
75 people starting the short race
“We want to thanks everyone who helped put on this event,” says event spokesperson Sigrid Pilgrim. “The committee who meets every month putting things together, the start line chair and his volunteers, the finish line volunteers, the spotters along the river, the Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserves for their help, and more. And we’d like to give special recognition to Everett Andrus and Eric Velasco who sat out in the hot sun all day spotting boats at the finish line.”
Next year’s 60th annual race is slated for May 21, 2017.
–By Don Mueggenborg