ÖTILLÖ and the new world of SwimRun

In SwimRun the emphasis on teamwork is a fascinating and challenging aspect to endurance. Also, being tethered to each other is …

SwimRun is a fast growing sport that has existed in Europe for just over ten years. But it has only popped up in North America in the past year.

Originating in Sweden, the rules are simple: in teams of two, get from point A to Point B, usually across various islands, using only what you can carry and as fast as possible. This generally involves entering and exiting the water over and over and over again.

Originally, competitors would carry with them various flotation devices and dry bags. But, as the sport has evolved and teams have become more competitive, rules have increased and gear has become more minimal.

As it stands now, the rules state that you must always be within 10 feet of your partner otherwise you risk disqualification. This is, by far, one of the most interesting aspects of the sport. Whereas most endurance sports are largely individual in nature, when you have to think about someone else other than yourself, the race dynamics and strategy can change on a dime. Now you need to worry not only about how you are doing, but also how your partner is doing (and how they were training!). Most teams opt to have a tether that links each partner together. This can be worn during the swim, run, or both. If you have a stronger swimmer or stronger runner on the team, the tether can help assist the weaker swimmer or runner and give them a bit of a pull during their weaker section. Or, if they are having a bad day, getting a physical pull from your teammate can really make a huge difference; just ask my ÖtillÖ partner Bryan!

There is some mandatory equipment that you must have at the start of the race: Wetsuits worn by all competitors covering at a minimum, the torso and upper half of thighs, 1 waterproof map holder, 1 whistle per athlete, 1 First Aid pressure bandage (packed waterproof), 1 compass. Race organizers will supply a waterproof map, race cap and bib, and a timing chip. You are NOT allowed any flotation device larger then 40” x 24”. If you were to watch a video of a SwimRun event, you would likely see most people wearing a wetsuit (there are many SwimRun specific suits now on the market), pullboy (to save your legs for running and not kicking), paddles (to help get you through the cold water, strong current, and giant waves faster), and tethered to a partner.

You swim in your shoes, and run in your suit. You’ve got to attach the rest of your gear to your body or in your suit because what you start with you finish with.

This is a great sport to get involved in if you are a strong swimmer and runner but don’t have the time or money to train for a triathlon. The runs are almost always done on trails so having some trail running experience is definitely a plus. It is also a great way to visit and see the world.

My first ever SwimRun was this September in Sweden at the SwimRun World Championships, ÖtillÖ, in the Swedish Archipelago. We ran across 26 different islands covering between 65 and 75 kilometres of running and 10 kilometres of swimming in the very cold and wavy Baltic Sea. It was definitely the coolest race experience I have ever had and was a totally new and unforgettable experience.

My second SwimRun race was in Danbury North Carolina, and we won!

If you are looking for a new and exciting sport to try then I definitely recommend a SwimRun! You’ll have to travel to Europe or eastern USA to get a taste of SwimRun but it is so worth it. You will never feel more accomplished or hardcore after having finished one. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing or hearing more about, please contact me! I am one of the only (if not the only) person in the area that has done any of these crazy races and I would love to share my passion for this new sport!

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Posted by Sophia Chadwick

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