Getting Started

Why try Marathon Canoeing?

Marathon Racing is the biggest competition discipline in UK Canoeing, with over 12,000 race entries per year across over 80 events nationwide.

Don’t get the wrong impression from the name – most race distances vary from 4 miles to 12, with a progressive, ability-based system of competition to progress through as you get faster and more confident. Once a year, there’s an ultra endurance 125 miler for those who like their challenges big!.

Fun right from beginner to international level, marathon canoeing is a physically and mentally challenging sport, and it gets you a beautiful, nature-rich environment you don’t usually get to see from roads or footpaths.

Racing canoes is surprisingly accessible, and very safe. Beginner boats are very stable and steer easily, with most races on calm inland rivers and canals. Beginners and juniors usually wear buoyancy aids (and racing rules require it for younger paddlers and those in lower divisions). A marathon racer doesn’t usually have to rely on one, the aim is to stay in the boat and get to the finish. More advanced and adult paddlers may choose not to wear one, once they are comfortable with the boat they are in and the water they are on.

The best first step would be to find a local club , or contact one of our regional representatives who can give more detailed advice depending on your preferences and abilities. Clubs usually hold a stock of boats and paddles for beginner members.

Marathon Canoeing includes Kayaking (using a paddle with two blades) and Canoeing (using a single blade). There are also races for singles (classified as K1 and C1), and doubles (K2 and C2). Very occasionally there are also K4 marathon races. Races are organised all over the country, typically every weekend between March and October and a few over the winter too. Click here to see the racing calendar.

Entering a Marathon Race

So you are ready for your first marathon race. You’ve practised until you’re ready, what do you do next?

Most beginners start in Division 9, racing other beginners of all ages over around 4 miles on a relatively easy course. If you’ve trained to a good level already, talk to your club about starting in a higher (lower number) division. If you are ranked in divisions 7, 8 or 9 you will need to wear a buoyancy aid, for higher divisions it depends on the race and water. For juniors under 12 years old there are shorter races available in “Lightning” plastic racing boats.

You then need to select a marathon event to go to. The Hasler Series competition is organised on a regional basis so you should have up to ten races a year within your locality. Your own club may organise one, where you can earn points for the regional inter-club Hasler competition.

Juniors can race in Division 9 or Lightnings at the same time to allow for their development but once promoted above division 9 they are deemed to be competent racers and may not race in the Lightning classes.

The race organiser should post their race entry details on this website and distribute to local clubs. Any special requirements, start times and costs will be detailed here. It is usually cheaper to enter a race in advance and can make the race organisers’ life easier so that they can concentrate on organising a quality experience.

When you get to the race you need to look for the booking-in desk, check your entry, take a note of your race number and then look for the course map. Ask around for people to explain the course to you if it does not seem clear. It is important to make sure that your race number is written clearly on specially designed race number plates and attached securely to the back of your boat.

If the organisers can’t read your race number at the finish your time may not be recorded or you may not score points for your club.

There will be a race briefing around half an hour before the start after which time make your way to the start. Warm up but stay upstream of the start line. Normally races will begin in the morning for the lower divisions starting with the fastest first.

When you finish the race, clear the finish line and stay upstream. Once cooled down get off at the allotted place and collect your racer’s refreshments before finding the results. Results will usually be published quickly on the day, with prizes for each divisional race. If you’ve won something, well done, but race too well and you will quickly get promoted up the divisions!

Racing Etiquette
Reproduced with kind permission from the Waterside Series website