Ely Hosts First-In-The-World Canoe Portaging Marathon


One of the things I love about Minnesota is all the diverse outdoor activities that sprawl across this great state. Fishing, hunting, world class biking trails, and the canoeing opportunities in the boundary waters. What else is great is how we creatively turn these activities into unique events.

Case in point.

The Ely marathon now has categories for runners portaging canoes. This year’s Ely Marathon was the first to offer a full marathon canoe portaging division. “We just had some crazy locals who asked if they could portage a canoe. So, here we are, we’re starting a fad.” race director Wendy Lindsay said. A dozen runners started the full and half marathons held last weekend in Ely. Four managed to finish the full marathon, while four more finished the half.

I have to tip my hat to Dan Drehmel, who shouldered a canoe more than 26 miles to win the first official canoe portaging marathon. Drehmel finished the race – carrying his 35-pound canoe – with a time of 5:23:48. Could he turn around and do it again? “No, no, I’m done,” Drehmel said with a laugh, minutes after his finish. Drehmel – who works as guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area – said he wanted to attempt the portaging marathon “just to see if it’s possible.”

Spectator Ashley Sinclair said shortly before Drehmel crossed the finish line, “The truest Minnesotan thing you can think of is to carry a canoe for a whole marathon,”.

I couldn’t agree more.