The James is a river of varied vistas — rolling mountains in the upper reaches, Class IV rapids amidst urban wildnerness in Richmond, and miles wide as it nears the Chesapeake Bay. When avid paddler Kevin Odberg approached the James River Association with the idea to create a long-distance paddle race last year, we jumped at the chance to organize such a unique event. And so, the James River Rundown was born.
Last year’s Rundown marked the first of its kind for the JRA, an organization known first and foremost for its protection of the river that runs through the heart of Virginia. But we felt the Rundown meshed well with our mission because it showcases the beauty of the James and promotes river recreation. It gives us an opportunity to connect folks with the river.
Thirty paddlers started the race at James River State Park last June. By the next day a handful had pulled-out but most were able to complete the grueling challenge. Last year’s winners, Rusty and Leza McLain, finished the 100-miles in under 17 hours, an amazing display of tenacity and skill.
This year the JRA has made some changes for the 2nd iteration of the James River Rundown. In addition to the original 100-mile race, 40-mile and 20-mile races are being offered to make the event more accessible to paddlers of all skill levels. The 100-mile race begins at James River State Park the morning of June 27, the 40-mile race begins at Cartersville the morning of June 28, and the 20-mile race begins at Powhatan State Park the morning of June 28. The finish line and after party, including food, beer provided by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and live music, are just downriver of Robious Landing at American Legion Post 354 in Chesterfield Co.
With six weeks left before the big races, we’re already well on our way to crossing the 100-participant mark — a huge jump from last year.