By Nancy Heslin
Hollywood has its Walk of Fame, Cleveland has its Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and ÖTILLÖ has its Sprint Final 15 – an open-air museum where you can follow in the footsteps of swimrun legends who’ve battled their way along this last 15 kilometers of the ÖTILLÖ World Championship course for the past 14 years.
No other Sprint race encapsulates the sport’s spirit like the Sprint Final 15 and this year’s fourth edition – which includes 10 runs on soft trails, cliffs, and old country roads and 9 swims (there can be quite a lot of current but the longest swim is 1150 metres) – will be held on Saturday, August 31.
“The Swimrun World Championship is very difficult to get into but so many people want to experience the course. It’s too complex for us to do the race more than once a year,” says ÖTILLÖ co-founder Michael Lemmel. “This is why we now have the ÖTILLÖ Sprint Final 15k covering the last and very emotional part of the gruelling World Championship course and open to every one.”
Maria Rohman couldn’t agree more. “Just as the name implies, it’s the last 15k but trust me, its a pretty full on race if you want it to be – and it’s quite different from the other races around.” Maria and her Team Joyride partner Lina Byman finished first in the Women’s division last year. Maria, who along with Adriel Young will be reporting live from the ÖTILLÖ World Championship course on September 2 (www.otilloswimrun.com/live), adds, “It’s mainly located on smaller uninhabited islands making you and your teamie really one with the nature. Plus, knowing that two days later people will be racing 60k before they even hit this is really impressive.”
Avid swimmer and runner Cyndi Platt and her triathlete brother Chris Niquette both live in Dayton, Ohio. Last year, the siblings flew to Sweden specifically to participate in their second ever swimrun, the Sprint Final 15 as Team No Sibling Rivalry. “Swimrun is just starting to gain popularity in the US and there are not many races here yet,” shares Cyndi.
“We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery and sense of camaraderie among the athletes. The race was challenging – especially all the rock scrambling – and such an adventure. It was a relief to see the finish line and receive a warm hug from Michael.”
Cyndi and Chris recommend the Sprint Final 15 race to others. “Our spouses joined us for the trip and we had a wonderful vacation in Stockholm. It was a magical journey.”
Josefine Grahed Jangvert (above, left) from southern Sweden has done lots of swimrun sprint races but tried the Sprint Final 15 last year for the first time. “I was curious about what parts of the iconic ÖTILLÖ course look like. Starting with a short, fast run and then a 1k swim, you experience gravel roads, hills and forests and finish with a run up the hill to Utö Värdshus.”
For Josefine, swimrun is not just about getting close to nature and seeing places you wouldn’t otherwise see. “The Stockholm archipelago is so beautiful and ÖTILLÖ races are well organized with a great atmosphere – and you get to share the experience with your swimrun partner.”
Maria, who is co-founder of WILD Women Swimrun, also points out that the Sprint distances, with a race time of 2 to 5 hours, are manageable while at the same time offering a great experience to anyone who wants a really tough race with a shot for a podium position. “For many of us working full-time, or who have kids or a partner, it isn’t always feasible to put in the training hours required for a World Series race to stay injury free – or in a happy relationship!”
WILD Swimrun has three teams at the Sprint Final 15 start line this year. “Of course we hope to see more female teams signed up,” admits Maria, “but for us it’s become a weekend to meet up with friends, go through the course the night before, check and compare our gear and then debrief post-race over drinks, food and laughter.”
If you’re looking for a taste of ÖTILLÖ, check out the Sprint Final 15. And don’t forget to rent your ARK wetsuit.
Article first published August 2019.