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Born from adventure racing, SwimRun is a tough endurance sport where you compete in pairs, swimming in your trainers and running in your wetsuit. It may sound crazy, but it’s fast gaining momentum

by Kath Hudson | Published in Sports Management Sep Oct 2017 issue 133

The concept was created as a drunken bet by Swedish friends, Mats Skott and Michael Lemmel, who had the idea of racing across the Stockholm archipelago in 2006.

This course, ÖTILLÖ, has now become the SwimRun World Championships. It involves 10km of swimming in the cold Baltic sea and 65km of running on slippery rocks, island terrain and unbeaten terrain. There are now four qualifiers for it: the Isles of Scilly in the UK, 1000 Lakes in Germany, Uto in Sweden and Engadin in the Swiss Alps. Skott estimates that there were more than 200 SwimRun races organised in 2016. In 2017, SwimRun events took place across the UK in Scotland, Wales and England.

Nature and beauty
“The rise of SwimRun is due to three things primarily,” says Skott. “You race in pairs, meaning you’re dependent on one another and you share the experience together. The races are out in nature and you get to discover beautiful places without leaving a trace, and it’s a sport where the only thing you can do is to work with your partner and use each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Skott says the sport is about getting back to basics.

“It has nothing to do with trying to control your environment, time, or speed running and swimming, as these sections vary in terrain and difficulty,” he says. “It appeals to people who are tired of the expensive gear and of being in a controlled environment, who are interested in nature and other people and want to find a way to adapt, not conquer.”

For those interested in organising a SwimRun event, Skott says the course should be interesting, allow competitors to discover nature and be an experience. “Make it accessible to many, so do not go crazy on the distances,” he says. “Think safety, safety, safety – then fun, fun, fun.”

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