On Your Mark

It’s a lovely Saturday. How did you start yours off? Maybe you slept in a little bit. Perhaps you enjoyed a nice breakfast of coffee and waffles. And then you took some leisurely time to read the paper. Then, of course, you took the dog for a walk. After that you began your 300-mile kayak race.

Wait… What? A 300-mile kayak race?

That’s what my friend, Mary, woke up bright and early to do today. She’s participating in the Everglades Challenge for the first time. This is a 300-mile race that launched from Fort DeSoto Park and ends in Key Largo. Mary and 140 other kayakers, canoers, and small boat captains embarked on this extremely challenging journey at 7:00 a.m. The sun was just coming up…

EC 2014-map

Look at the stars. ~300-miles from the tip of Pinellas County to Key Largo, FL.

Some of the 141 are “only” participating in the Ultra Marathon, which is a 67-miles and covers the first stretch of the 300-mile race. There is a 2-day cut off to finish that race or the entrant is disqualified. Mary finished that race with time to spare last year.

For Mary and the others doing the entire 300-mile race there is an 8-day cut off to finish, and participants have to reach each of three checkpoints within a certain time along the way.

That’s eight days. In a kayak. Paddling through the Everglades.

Mary and Andy, her kayaking partner, plan on rowing 18 hours a day during the race. There are gators, crocodiles, sharks, raccoons, and mosquitoes. There’s sunburn, wind, rain, dehydration, malnourishment, sleep deprivation, and lots of mud.  Only ~100 people have finished this race since it began back in 2001. In other words, the Everglades Challenge ain’t no cake walk…


Hopefully she’ll finish early, but Mary could spend eight days in that boat!

Yet this is a dream of Mary’s. When she and I were talking about the race recently, she told me that she’s wanted to do something like this since she was four-years-old. If she hadn’t developed a passion for kayaking, she wanted to bike across the U.S. or climb Mt. Everest instead. She’s driven by the thrill of adventures.


Mary and her kayaking partner, Andy. Andy completed the Everglades Challenge last year. I think Mary is in good company.

The idea behind living daringly is that anyone can do it. Living daringly means embracing life, appreciating it, enjoying the little and the big things. But there’s something about people who live big that is incredibly inspiring. Those who have climbed Everest, given up the “safe” job to go on the road to share their music, made important discoveries, written novels, traveled to the exotic places of the world, attempted 300-mile kayak races…

I am incredibly inspired that Mary is challenging her entire being with this race. She has wanted to do this race for years, and now she is doing it. She inspires me to keep challenging myself in my own life. I don’t do it in the same ways, and certainly not as obviously, but she reminds me that I have to follow my passions to live a full life. As I do that, I’m glad that I can help my friend with her race and provide some support for her, both logistically and morally.


Me and Mary. I’m her shore crew! Argh, matey! 🙂

I can’t wait to go down to Key Largo next Friday. I look forward to congratulating her and helping her celebrate (once she gets feeling back in her arms, anyway Winking smile). And, once we return to Tampa, I look forward to helping her plan her next big kayak trip…

I forgot to mention the five-or-so people who are doing a 1,200-mile race around the entire state of Florida who launched with all of the rest. Mary’s thinking about tackling that challenge next.

Good luck, Mary and Andy! There are a ton of people cheering you on. Hang in there and make good choices!

You can track both Mary and Andy’s progress throughout the week here.

a. Under Event, select EC2014
b. Under class, select class 2
c. Under Challenger, select Calypso (Mary’s Water Tribe name. Andy is OneEyed Jake.)

d. Under Display Detail, select Show Tracks, OK, Help, and Current Waypoints only
e. Click on the regenerate view button

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