Spectators gathered on the banks of the Macal River bright and early this morning to witness the launch of the 26th La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge. The grueling race covers 180 miles and will culminate on Monday, March 6 at the river mouth in Belize City.
History of the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge
The race that has become a staple of Belize’s National Heroes and Benefactors Day holiday weekend was first launched in 1998. Founded by businessman and investor Richard Harrison in an effort to promote Big H-Juice and Vida Purified Water, today the annual canoe race draws thousands of onlookers. But although the main purpose of the race was for marketing, the founder also saw it as a great opportunity to promote the culture and history surrounding the Old Belize River.
Throughout history, the river has served as a major trading route. Bending and weaving through the country, it has served as an aorta of sorts for trade and transportation between the coastal and inland areas.
More than just a race, the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is an ode to the country’s Maya history and to the human spirit and perseverance.
Today, the race is organized by a team that includes two of the founding members and staff from Love Entertainment. The race also sees support from organizations like the Belize Defence Force and The Belize Coast Guard. A total of 57 teams are taking part in the 26th iteration of the La Ruta Maya.
The first day of the race begins bright and early on March 3rd. For this first stretch, paddlers will race from the starting point – the Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio Town – to Banana Bank, which is just outside of Belmopan. The route begins on the Macal River then goes up to Branch Mouth where the Macal and Mopan Rivers join to form the Belize River. From there, it will pass along areas like Spanish Lookout, Teakettle, Ontario, and Valley of Peace.
Then, on Saturday March 4th, it kicks off at 6:30 AM in Banana Bank. From there, the race will pass near as a number of areas in the Belize River Valley, like Bermudian Landing and Isabella Bank. On Sunday, at 8:00 AM, the third leg of the race begins. It starts off at Double Head Cabbage and Ends in Burrell Boom Village, passing a number of historic communities along the way.
The grand finale of the race takes place in Belize City, where the Belize River eventually empties out into the Caribbean Sea. The actual finish line of the event though, will be near the Belize City Civic Center on Central American Boulevard. Racers will depart from Burrell Boom Village at 9:00 AM.
After watching the thrilling conclusion, you can expect to find loads of food, drinks, and fun activities for the entire family all day long. Cant make it out to watch the race in person? No worries! Catch the livestream on the La Ruta Maya page here.
Featured Photo by Belize Tourism Board