La Ruta Maya River Challenge this weekend

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 9            March 7, 2002

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More than 80 teams are expected to compete this weekend in Belize's 5th La Ruta Maya River Challenge. Gaining the attention of "extreme sports" enthusiasts locally and from around the globe, this is the largest spectator event in the country. The 3 1/2 day, 170-plus mile race begins Friday, March 8th in San Ignacio and ends on Monday, May 11th in Belize City.

    Opening ceremonies this year begin at 5:00 a.m. on the banks of the Macal River. The students of Sacred Heart College are planning a gala kick-off, complete with fireworks and five bonfires in recognition of La Ruta Maya's fifth anniversary. Many facets of the Maya culture will be observed and five canoes bearing five ceremonial torches will be another feature of the start of the race. Participants in La Ruta Maya, (The Maya Route) will compete from dawn to dusk, stopping to camp overnight on river banks at Banana Bank, Bermudian Landing and finally at Burrell Boom before the final 25-mile leg of the race down the Belize River ending at the Belcan Bridge in Belize City. As of Tuesday, more than 30 teams were registered, but teams may register until 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening.   

    Four different team divisions will compete in the 5th annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge: professional, amateur, "Dorie" (traditional wooden dugout canoes), and "Masters" for those aged 40 and over! It was reported that internationally, the United Kingdom and the United States will also be represented at the race. A popular rumor is that the number one "paddler" in the world, Serge Corbin of Canada may also attend. Last year 70 teams participated, with Koop Sheet Metal taking first place honors. More than $50,000 in prizes sponsored by several Belizean businesses will be given away this year. Big-H and Vida Water are the main sponsors for the event.

    Chairman of the Competition Committee, Mike Green of Chaa Creek Resort, told the San Pedro Sun, that international attention is growing. Just two weeks ago Mr. Green attended the International Adventure Travel and Outdoor Sports Show in Chicago, Illinois, USA and claimed Belize's booth was jammed with people inquiring about La Ruta Maya. He informed that one organizer, Mid-America Extreme, a major promoter of multi-sports adventures, has expressed interest in bringing their group to Belize in 2004. He added this could well mean as many as 300 participants (3-4 person teams) traveling around Belize, who compete in 24-hour, 7-10 day stretches in several types of sport activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, etc.

    Mr. Green explained, "La Ruta Maya is about three things: tourism, history and culture, and the environment." Knowing that, it is fitting that this year's theme is, "It's More Than Just A Race." Mike Green added, "The Belize River was the main artery for transportation for years and very important to the survival of many." In recognition of these people, this race is being dedicated to "the last of the river men," Thomas Green, who passed away recently. He has been dubbed La Ruta Maya posthumous Grand Marshal for this year.

    Good luck to those racing in the 5th La Ruta Maya River Challenge and may the race be a safe and fun event for all!
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