The 'Texas River Safari' is a well known test of canoe enthusiasts from all over the United States. I happen to know several people who have and do take part in this strenuous race down the Guadalupe river. It is a physical and mental test that is not for the faint of heart. What a lot of folks have never heard of is the preparatory 'Texas River Marathon'.

The cars sprinkled along state Highway 236 outside of Cuero contained participants in the Texas River Marathon. A record 121 applicants took to the Guadalupe River to compete in the 39-mile race canoe that is a precursor to next month's Texas Water Safari.

The first four canoe racers reached the bridge, 17 miles into the race, in just over two hours. Cuero resident Andrew Condie was the first solo rider to cross the de-facto checkpoint at 11:20. The first individual woman crossed the Thomaston River Road bridge at 11:38. The first to make the trek took nearly five and a half hours to make to Riverside Park in Victoria. By 3 p.m., just 30 of the entrants completed the course. Among them were Cedar Park residents Johan Dahl and John Baltzell. Dahl, 51, never participated in either a River Marathon or Water Safari, but his friend Baltzell is a veteran of the 2006 safari. "That's the excitement, the rapids and the unknown" Dahl told the Victoria Advocate Saturday morning in reference to the rapids just outside of Nursery that have a reputation for being difficult. "I have never paddled here before so there are some surprises." Dahl and Baltzell were the first two-person team to complete the course. Before the two started the race Baltzell joked age doesn't prevent one from becoming a good canoe racer.

Saturday's race was a chance for participants to test their stamina a month before the 262-mile water safari. Participants were also interested in the river's water levels, and setting up their positioning for next month's bit event.

Allen Spelce, president of the Texas Water Safari, believed the influx can be attributed to this year marking the 50th anniversary of Willie George and Frank Brown paddling down the river. That 1962 jaunt set the foundation for the water safari. He said 60 groups have registered for the full safari, which begins in San Marcos five weeks from now. "It's the 50th and it's bringing a lot of folks out," Spelce said, adding he expects more to register in the coming weeks. "People want to be involved who have done the race in the 70s, 80s and 90s and they are coming for another run."