UTÖ: a tribute to swimrun

Apr 25, 2017 | 0 comments

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö 2016 (Photo: Nadja Odenhage)

Nadja Odenhage

When you arrive on the Swedish island of Utö, also called the “Island of Love”, you quickly understand why the original swimrun bet by the Andersson brothers was made here.

Utö is situated in the southern part of the Stockholm archipelago, which is made up of some 30,000 islands, and it makes a natural barrier between the outer and inner archipelago.

Utö runs in a north-south direction together with the islands of Ornö, Nämdö and Runmarö making a “bridge” to Sandhamn, the sailing mecca of the Baltic. These islands have now become the intrinsic part of the mythical Sandhamn to Utö ÖTILLÖ racecourse, which started in 2006.

The islands of Utö, Ålö and Rånö are what dreams are made, with forests, trails, rocks, cliffs, sandy beaches, gravel roads and a beautiful, small community, and they make up the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö playing field.

Very few people know these islands as well as Mats and Jesper Andersson, who spent their summers on Utö running around, as well as doing other physical activities year round. So, in 2003, when they’d had a few too many beers with Anders Malm, one of the owners of the inn, it was quite natural that they would come up with the idea of running and swimming to Sandhamn. Everything else had already been done. And thus swimrunning was born.

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö 2016 (Photo: Nadja Odenhage)

Nadja Odenhage

In 2013, Mats Skott and Michael Lemmel had more demand for the original ÖTILLÖ event than they could handle so they decided to do a qualifying race in late spring. It was a given that the first qualifier would be on Utö, as a tribute to the origin of the sport.

That first year, 45 teams signed up for Utö but only 38 started. There had been ice in the archipelago until the beginning of April, and the water was very cold with some swims at 7°C. Fast-forward to 2017, when 300 teams from 20 nations will be on the start line, with most of the top racers in the world participating.

Lelle Moberg and Daniel Hansson (Swedish Armed Forces) will try to hold on to their Golden Jersey (won at Hvar) and Kristin Larsson will be racing with Eva Nyström against Utö 2016 winners Annika Ericsson and Elisabeth Pärsdotter Westman. In the Mixed category, Jasmina Glad Schreven and Thomas Schreven will be battling hard with Apollo Sports’ Staffan Björklund and Marika Wagner, and a slew of other monster teams.

Not to be missed, the Original Four’s Jesper Andersson Mars will be racing in Saturday’s Sprint with his daughter (a second-generation swimrunner) Tova Ridderström, to defend their 2016 podium finish, and Mats Andersson will be racing with Utö’s World Champion Maja Tesch in Sunday’s World Series Race.

The island of Utö – which, little-known fact, is where Lithium was discovered – is accessible from Stockholm City in about 90 minutes by public transportation – first by train, then bus and finally, the ferry, which takes you to Gruvbryggan, the location of Utö Värdshus and where a strong mining community existed some 150 years ago. Today it’s mainly tourism with a little farming that generates income for the small year-round community.

As for the reputation of the Island of Love, this is particularly apparent in the summer months but the warmth of the atmosphere and the love everyone has to share can be felt year round. On Utö, everyone has a connection with swimrun in one way or another and there’s no doubt as to why the sport spouts out of this fountain of passion. Even the local farmer has built his own indoor training pool to be able to swim during the long winter months, in perfect swimrun conditions: 10°C water with maybe 10°C air temp.

The ÖTILLÖ Training Centre is situated in the harbour of Utö.

Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 2 (Apr/May 2017)

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More magazine articles

Humanitarian response workers in Iraq team up for ÖTILLÖ swimrun in Germany

Sean Casey and Mitch McTough are both aid workers in Iraq working on the humanitarian response around the offensive against ISIS and the large-scale displacements the terrorist group has caused. They have teamed up for ÖTILLÖ 1000 Lakes in Germany on October 1. Their biggest challenge? Training in a 16-metre basement pool and running in 40-50°C (104-122°F) temps.

Meet a World Champion: Lelle Moberg

In 2016, Lelle Moberg and teammate Daniel Hansson smashed the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship course record crossing the finish line under 8 hours. This year, Lelle will be racing in spirit only as he cheers from the sidelines recovering from an injury.

Meet a World Champion: Daniel Hansson

Daniel Hansson and his teammate Lelle Moberg smoked the 2016 ÖTILLÖ World Championship and set a new course record of sub 8-hours. Can he do it again next week with Jesper Svensson?

Swimrun Life #3 2017 – A word from the editor

The ferry ride. As a kid in the Seventies, a ferry ride meant an adventure – water, waves, fun, and freedom to run around, watching the mainland disappear into the horizon. You were leaving the crowded city with its big boring buildings for fresh air on a spacious island, where nature was beckoning to be explored, insects inspected, and tree roots to be tripped on.

Race Directors’ Moment: It has been a whirlwind of a season

It has been a whirlwind of a season.At ÖTILLÖ Utö, most of the teams were terrified of the cold water. In fact, almost everyone baked. At ÖTILLÖ Isles of Scilly, the Atlantic Ocean was like a swimming pool and who will ever forget the last night outside the pub, hanging on the sea wall and watching the sunset together? At ÖTILLÖ Engadin, a mega thunderstorm in the middle of the race clearly showed us all that nature will never be tamed. We now have a couple of weeks to prepare for the 2017 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship. At this point, it’s safe to say that …

ÖTILLÖ LEGEND #3: Jonas Colting

One of Sweden’s most recognised triathletes, Jonas Colting is the only person to compete in every single ÖTILLÖ World Championship race since its inception in 2006. Colting, who promotes swim safety as a way of integrating refugees and immigrants in Sweden, just finished a 300km swim in the Baltic Sea to raise awareness about the need for public swimming pools in the country.

International partners
  • Head
  • Campz Addnature
  • Garmin
  • Vivo Barefoot