What is Swimrun?

Swimrun is traditionally a team sport in which two people (all male, all female, or mixed) swim and run together over relatively large distances through nature.

The sport was born out of a drunken bet in the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden in 2002. Anders Malm, the owner of the Utö Värdshus hotel, his friend Janne Lindberg, and a couple of his staff challenged each other to race as two teams to Sandhamn, another island in the archipelago, roughly 75km away. It took them over 24 hours to get there that year, and similar when they did it again the year after, but their efforts would form the basis of a new race.

In 2006 Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott (former endurance athletes) were asked to create a race from that crazy challenge. They created Ötillö, meaning island to island in Swedish. (It would be as late as 2011 before someone finally named the sport “swimrun”, eventually being christened as such by Ötillö World Championship podium finisher Erika Rosenbaum.)

In the early years there were very few teams who took part and even fewer succeeded in actually finishing, but as the sport has grown and the kit and training have got better, that original course has developed into what you see today as the Ötillö Swimrun World Championships, one of the toughest endurance races on the planet.

Ötillö itself has since become a global brand, hosting races all over the world and inspired many more event organisers to enter the arena.    

The Basics of Swimrun

A team of two people progresses along a pre-marked course in nature, running and swimming different sections as the course dictates. You wear the same outfit for the whole thing, running in your wetsuit and swimming in your trainers, and you can use hand paddles, pull buoys, or even fins (of a certain length) to aid your progress, but you must finish with all the kit you start with. And you must stay within 10 metres of each other throughout. It is a shared experience, “the fun, the beauty and the suffering”, says the Ötillö website.  It is traditionally an endurance sport, with many courses around 42km in total, and for safety they generally require you to race as a pair. However, over recent years, Ötillö and other organisers have started to introduce Sprint (15-21km) and Experience (5-7km) distances which allow you to race solo, opening the sport up for more people.

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