Kayak on river with bridge

The MR340: Competing in the World’s Longest Nonstop River Race

If you watch my social media, you know I’ve been prepping for something huge this year. After months of training physically and mentally, it’s finally time to share. 

On August 1st, I will be competing in the MR340 — the world’s longest nonstop river race.

How It All Started

About a year ago, a few of my friends started an email thread about some crazy race. This particular circle of friends is filled with risk-takers and adventurers — folks who like to push themselves. 

I’d never even heard of the MR340. But as I dug into the details, I couldn’t believe the numbers I was reading — they seemed made up. The requirements were to kayak 340 miles in under 85 hours. And, past winners of some of the divisions finished the race in less than 50! I had big plans for 2023 but wasn’t sure if this was on my to-do list amid speaking engagements, spending time with my family, and trying to find time to rest somewhere between everything else. But the email thread went back and forth for several weeks. Whenever I got excited about saying yes, doubt crept in. I would think:

Was I good enough to try this? Could I truly, do it? Did I have the mental and physical aptitude to compete, let alone even finish?

For those who have been around here awhile, you know I’ve pushed myself into some pretty epic things, like climbing a 14er, solo, becoming an NFL cheerleader and living on a canoe in the Florida Everglades.

But this race still felt like an undertaking even too big for me.

Registering for the MR340

I woke up on January 1st to a few text messages about registration opening up. I thought about it for an hour and then paid the registration fee. That might seem fast, but I figured, what was the worst that could happen: I reserve my spot and then decide a few weeks later that I couldn’t truly train for it? The money went to charity regardless of whether or not I showed up. 

A week later, I discovered I wasn’t alone in my initial hesitation. Only four people, including myself, from the weeks-long email thread that, at one time had nearly 20 people on it, actually paid the registration fee. Enter my wide-eyed, gasp of shock. 

Only. Four. Signed up. 

I wasn’t sure what to do with that information but I wasn’t going to let the lack of camaraderie change my mind about the commitment I had made. I learned from my mother that where there’s a will there’s a way.

Training for the MR340

The competition sat heavily in the back of my mind as I dealt with the turbulence of holiday travel and family commitments back in Kansas City. Upon my return to Dallas, I discovered my home had been flooding nearly the entire time I had been gone. For weeks, I wasn’t confident that I could truly give training the attention it deserved. But the parallels of water adversity weren’t lost on me. 

I woke up on the last day of February and it couldn’t have been more clear: I was ALL IN. For the next five months, I would tenaciously train my mind and body, building up my stamina to handle the vigor of the craziest adventure of my life.

MR340: The World’s Longest Nonstop River Race

At 8 a.m. on August 1st, with my three teammates and three grounds crew members, I will push off from Kaw Point Boat Ramp to kayak 340 miles on the Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis, Mo. in under 85 hours to compete in the MR340. For 18 years, the MR340 has challenged outdoorsmen, thrill-seekers, adventurers, and even folks who spend most of their time behind a desk to push themselves to do something bold. Today, the kayak race has grown to over 600 boats with 1,200 participants from all around the world. It’s estimated that at least one-third of the participants don’t finish. 

My team has prepped, trained, strategized, cried, and high-fived. We have ensured our families that we will be safe and survive. We’ve committed our minds to finishing the race within the allotted time. Truthfully, I have one tiny additional goal that I’ll share later if I hit it.

Committing to the MR340

Some may already know how much I value the reward of pushing myself to overcome obstacles. And while I’ll surely post an update to share the results, I’d like to leave you with one thing: 

I fundamentally believe that humans are capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for.

You might have zero desire to enter a 340-mile race, but is there something you can do today to push yourself? Get 30 minutes of daily exercise, five days in a row. Finish that book you’ve been meaning to read. Repair that friendship you so desperately miss. Ask for that raise or promotion. Sometimes people need a little push. What they don’t tell you is that it should be you doing the pushing.

As always, I’m cheering you on and want the best for you. If you need a little push to push yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out.


Shannon McKain is a motivational keynote speaker and a business consultant based in Dallas. She has worked in nearly all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders. Looking for a keynote speaker or consultant who can speak on these issues with expertise? Let’s chat!

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