Red Cross Murray Ultra Marathon

Saturday, January 19, 2008 / Posted by Rambo /

Firstly, i would like to announce and also thank our Sponsors for the Red Cross Murray Marathon. Behind this great race is also a great Charitable Organization - the Australian Red Cross.

Clarkie and I are proud to be doing our bit to support the Red X (we get to do the paddling part) and our generous sponsors Marcus (H) and Gay Forbes from the Property Group Tinpike P/L and Ian Richie from Berrich P/L suppliers of Panel + PLUS products have donated a considerable amount to the Red cross to enable our participation. We thank both companies for their support and will promote them in return with signage on the OC2 and media plugs when ever we can (Rambo has a few plans/schemes to ensure we attract media attention ????? :wink: ). Both Sponsors will also receive a framed photo of the finish line on day 5. Once again thank you Marcus, Gay and Ian.


Tinpike P/L

Panel + PLUS

Just a couple of facts about the Red Cross Murray Marathon for those that aren't familiar with it.

1. One of world's longest annual canoe races - 404km in five days.

2. Funds raised during the Marathon are channelled back into the Australian Red Cross

3. Attracts more than 700 participants, 300 volunteers and up to 3000 support crew.

What we are trying to achieve - Time wise

Clarkie doesn't know it yet :lol: but our goal is to break 30 hours over the full distance in 5 days.

To do this we will need to average 13.466 kph (remembering this is down river) and finish the 5 individual days in the times below.

This is the Plan

Day 1 - 6:58:49

Day 2 - 7:07:44

Day 3 - 5:38:37

Day 4 - 4:40:42

Day 5 - 5:34:10

Total - 30:00:00

Of course if we better the planned times on any day , we setup a buffer for any bad days, and vise verse.

I believe this is very achievable, and will break the record for any OC2 Division by 2hrs 30secs, which was set by Clarkie and Tony Bond in 2006. Their average speed was 12.429 kph, so we need to average just over 1kph more to reach our goal.

The fastest OC1 time for the full distance is 33:23:09, set by a 53 year old paddler Willie Morris in 2005
The fastest time for a TK2 open class is 26:17:32 in 1992
The fastest time for a TK2 40+ is 28:53:10 in 1994 (which is our equivalent division in TK2)

Obviously river flow rate will effect the times from year to year, but we're hoping for good assistance.

To do this time we will need everything to go as planned with our food, supplementation, hydration, stroke economy/timing, mental focus, race tactics and recovery. And of course our lovely support crew Mrs Clarkie and daughter/s.

We have both done plenty of training for this event, i have exceeded 100kms a week for most of the year as a base and i know Clarkie has put in the K's as well.

My Report after Day 2

I'm coherent at last, spent 3 hours on a lylo dangling my legs and arms in Clarkies pool trying to cool my core temperature. Went into the 2nd day slightly dehydrated and finished the day totally dehydrated. It's almost impossible to drink warm water for 7 hours when any taste in it is multiplied 10 fold. Even 1 cup of powerade in 3 litres is so strong and yucky warm, you nearly puke.

You just can't do this race for the first time (full distance) and get everything right, even advice from old timers is of limited value because it effects everyone differently.

One of the most difficult things for me is the boredom, no instant gratification from riding a bump etc. You just have to paddle hard and stare at things and focus on deep breathing to block out any pain or discomfort. You definitely have to have a goal that you want to meet at the end of the 5 days, as well as daily, that was why i set up the 30 hour goal. What i didn't factor in at the time, was the effect of having to carry 12kg of provisions, almost three quarters of the weight of the OC2 again, sure can feel it in the first 2 hours when the pace is on.

Times and results we will post later, but as Clarkie said, we're on track to set a new open record.

Have no fear this is one tuff race, unbelievably i have had no ass problems, but cramping upper back limiting stroke range some what. The trick is to recover each nite ready for the next day, not easy with the limited time.

Off to bed, big day tomorrow.

Check out the race news and photos at ... ws2007.htm

Of course Rambo managed to get his photo on the front page of the Red X web site, except they called me Mad Mick for some reason and a good photo of us both on the OC2. See above link.

Wrap Up of the Race

We came 2nd overall but missed our target time.

Ok, here's my wrap up of the Red Cross Murray Marathon.

To pick up where i left off, day 3 was where i started to get my head around this race and the body finally
accepted that it was going to hit walls at about the 3 and a half hour mark each day. These walls were pain, boredom, inability to drink warm water, wandering focus and the realisation that we were not going to break 30 hours.

What was encouraging though, was the fact that for the first hour of each day, we were able to pace with the surf skis and faster TK1's. We would stay with them till they faded and then they either rode our bow wave on either side of the OC2, or sat on our wake. Other than this we had very little opportunity to wash ride. This is really frustrating because we had the speed to break away from the opposition within minutes of the start each day, and we did, but knowing at any time, faster relay TK2's could drag the opposition up on their wash, so you had to be on the pace all the time.

Middle of day 3, i started to feel really strong and picked up the pace and rating, but a swearing and cursing Clarkie is not a pleasant companion and after a couple of hours, i had to drop the rate or risk a mutiny, or worst, a bruised shoulder from a Mrs Clarkie right cross.

What was happening was, i was getting the hang of this long distance thing and Clarkie who had two good previous days (while i suffered), was starting to feel the pinch. In a way, we complemented each other, covering each others weaknesses, but both still prepared to hurt when opportunity to gain time presented itself.

Day 4 and i finally ditched my two camelbak bladders, unable to stomach drinking warm water in the 45 degree heat. I bought a 5Lt insulated jug and attached the drinking tubes to this and filled with cold pure water and ice. Heaven, now we could really up the pace and we did. Funny how when passing through a check point with hundreds cheering you on, the canoe finds an extra 3 kph as you pose for the crowd. Then you round the next bend out of sight the pace drops again as if by magic. Haahaaa, yep it's a mind game this paddling caper.

Day 5, i thought was our best day as a team. We both felt strong and paddled in perfect time and technique, people were saying we looked really good and the canoe ran faster than any other day and our time confirmed it. This day went very close to our 30 hour pace, we were on fire, which is amazing when you think we had just paddled 326kms in the last 4 days. Some how, i think the body (or mind) had finally stopped putting up walls and was ready to accept the punishment.

I learnt heaps about pain and mind control and what you can push through if you really want too. There is a cost though, i just did a time trial on Monday nite on the Peggie and my boat speed is shot to pieces. I cannot lift to my usual rating and feel really flat. Time trial time is down at least 2 mins. I had a huge aerobic base to play with this year having done 100kms a week all year, but there is only so many peaks you can launch from any base, and when you have used them up, you're spent for the year. That's where i'm at now, so back to the building phase again. Note: (i follow the Arthur Lydiard Training Principles which i will post later in another thread)

I've got the bug, want to do it in a one man next year and try and set a new record for OC1. I think Phil would have gone close if not for his broken rudder cable. Sadly we were unable to pass on info that would have got him going in 5 mins ( you can rig the canoe to steer with one rudder cable and peddle if you have 2 short lengths of bungee cord - I'll post the details later, you can actually permanently rig this for safety at sea if you break a cable)

IN order of importance these are the things to consider if you want to do this race.

1. Spend time on preparing a seat system that will see you painless for the entire 5 days. It can be done,
2. Ensure a cool tasteless water supply system and pure water only as main hydration. Taste buds amplify 5 x after 4 hours.
3. Carbo shot at least every hour, preferably a no or low flavor brand.
4. Start recovery as soon as each day is over - not a lot of time. Massage a must.
5. Gloves and good head and neck covering, you will get pressure pimples and blisters.
6. Adjust you outrigger stroke to a moderate reach and minimize unnecessary body movement. Paddle relaxed.
7. Trust your support crew and be nice to them, hard to paddle with bruised shoulders from boney knuckles.

You have to do this, it's a real learning experience and will give you confidence when tackling long OC races in the future.

Not a good look after 5 days

Cheers Rambo

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Anonymous on January 19, 2008

Your passion for paddling is an inspiration.

Since I know you would select the best equipment, can you tell me a little more about the Zulu OC-2 and why you selected it ?

Can you give your thoughts in relation to StingrayII and Tiger Mahoe Oc-2? It must be faster in flat and it looks well balanced. but I am just guessing.

Comment by Rambo on January 19, 2008

The Zulu is a big volume surf OC2 no doubt about that. Have never buried the nose in downwind swell run, but surprisingly, it runs quite well in flat water. I think the Mahoe is the faster flat water OC2 being 3ft longer and narrower, but the Zulu is super comfy and has a good paddling platform for the longggg miles.

At 18kg, it is of average Oc2 weight, but adding 12kg of food and water sure takes more effort to maintain a good speed for 7 hours. You certainly feel the difference.
I'm 70kg and my partner was 70kg.

Cheers Rambo

Anonymous on January 20, 2008

Check out a new hydration tool called AquaJoe. It's a great add-on for your Camelbak. It's designed for easily transporting & dispensing powders. There is a video on the web site so you can see it in action (

Anonymous on January 20, 2008

Bonjour from Montréal Rambo.

Very impressive feat!!!
Congradulations on your record.

Cool video too.

Richard Germain

Anonymous on January 22, 2008

Hey Rambo, the last time I was 70kg I was 14 years old. I know I look 'slim' but that is ridiculous. Great to see everyone from overseas enjoying the video and our journey. Maybe one day a few of them will make the trek and paddle Australia's "Mighty Murray", remember bragging rights forever if you finish! I think the Zulu is real quick on flatwater because the volume of the canoe is above the water, not below, then the extra volume comes into it's own in the open ocean. Nice high paddling position for sprinting too. Don't forget our secret weapon on flatwater, a K1 rudder, no drag, just enough control as you can see on the vid for washriding.

Inland Outrigger.

Comment by Rambo on January 22, 2008

Hahaaaa ... bad typo in my behalf. It was meant to be 78kg Clarkie. I've made a correction just for you.

Thanks to the other guys for their interest and comments

Cheers Rambo

Anonymous on March 31, 2008

Great site

V interested in your fantastic Murray River Marathon (MRM) account.

I wonder if you could guess how much current assistance there was on average over the 5 days of the Murray Marathon. +2kph? +3?.

Doesn't seem to be any view on this on the other sites.



Comment by Rambo on March 31, 2008

Hi Tex, at times there were eddies and shallow water, so the canoe speed actually dropped below 8kph. But my guess the average current was about 1 -2 kph.

Thanks for your interest.

Cheers rambo

Anonymous on March 31, 2008


Very useful info.

Thanks for your response


Anonymous on October 17, 2008

Hi Rambo,
Congratulations on your site and your input to canoeing.
I sometimes ask myself why I started the marathon and other than raising money for Red Cross, what else it could or would do, but over the last 40 years, I have been EXTREMELY impressed and gratified (on behalf of Red Cross)by the dedication of the members of all the volunteer groups. Their continued efforts and support over many years is I believe, unparallelled in anything that has happened in the volunteer scene in Australia - I'm biased!
I was saddened to learn that Red Cross were dropping the Marathon, but in reality, these things happen, and in this case I am sure their decision will now allow another group or organisation to carry it on from the end of this year.
The input by all of the paddlers over 40 years has been unforgettable - even if painful. As is often said, "No Pain - No Gain". One may ask what was the gain out of all of this? I see the gains as being the fitness that people achieve by training and then paddling the mighty Murray, and also, just as importantly, the camaraderie which exists between all paddlers, their ground support and the volunteers.
On behalf of Red Cross, please accept my sincere thanks for your contribution to what started as just a small one-man fundraising idea.
Kind regards
Mark Thornthwaite
Murray River Canoe Marathon Founder
Maryborough - Qld

Comment by zbsports on August 12, 2010

Those are great run...That ultra marathon is awesome looks very hard...Congrats to the finisher...:D

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