This grueling marathon-style event is a little less extreme than their usual high-speed or high-flying antics, but the partnership with the Loppet Foundation is focused on high-level athletic performance, safety, and respect for tradition.
According to the marketing, Red Bull gives you wings. Participants in this event might end up wishing it gave them gills. The race is a marathon or half-marathon stretch of paddling and portaging—trekking through the woods on foot while carrying a kayak and paddles. Approximately 7 miles will involve portaging on foot while the remaining 18 or 19 will involve paddling down the Mississippi River.
There are men’s and women’s solo/tandem, doubles, and relay categories that begin at Father Hennepin Park and end at B.F. Nelson park, with portages around St. Anthony Falls, the Ford Dam, and several other places later in the race.
Cash prizes are up for grabs, with $500 going to the first place winner of each category, other than the relay, in which $1,000 will be awarded. There is an admission fee for racers, and spectators are welcome to come at no cost to enjoy the event at their leisure.
While competition, Red Bull, and cash prizes make up one aspect of the event, another is focused on safety. The Loppet Foundation is a local nonprofit that has run outdoor events in the Twin Cities since 2003 and advocates for relationship building between people and nature, particularly for underserved members of the community.
According to Loppet events director Paul Johnson, Red Bull is partnering with Loppet to ensure the event is properly staffed and run safely.
Another aspect of the event involves respect for the land—and water—as well as its history and people. “It’s a very unique event that fits the Twin Cities well,” Johnson tells me by phone. “The Twin Cities was largely founded on the water in the area, but there’s also Native American history dating back centuries.”
The race will go by Pike Island, where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers converge. The Dakota people call this Bdote, a sacred place where two waters come together. Johnson says Red Bull and Loppet want this event to be fun and safe while simultaneously being a respectful celebration of the location and acknowledgment of the history and tragedy that occurred in this place and to the Dakota people.
The Red Bull Urban Portage begins at 8 a.m. on August 28th and is expected to last until 1-5 pm. Competitors must be at least 18 years old and all are welcome to watch. Red Bull and water will be available, but the event is still BYOB (bring your own boat).