In Swimrun Life Magazine

Written by Nancy Heslin

Yes We Cannes! Three women try their first swimrun with ÖTILLÖ

Swimrun is an opportunity for everyone to get out there and explore nature. And with ÖTILLÖ’s Experience and Sprint distances, it has never been easier to get out the hand paddles and give it a try. We meet up with three women who are trying an ÖTILLÖ swimrun for the first time in Cannes on October 16th.

Maria Farrell, Monaco

Maria left Dublin with her Spanish partner to take a year out in the South of France. That was over a decade ago and now they have three, happy little trilingual girls in Monaco. “We have an insurance brokerage and specialize in private medical insurance for expats and employee benefits for multinational companies,” Maria explains. “Between parenting, working and travelling back to Ireland and to Spain so the girls can see their grandparents and cousins, there is never a dull moment.”

Maria has always loved swimming and at university she worked as a lifeguard during the summers. “Besides doing a couple of mini-marathons, the swimrun in Cannes will be my first ever time to participate in such an event and I am very excited. I only started running again when lockdown closed my gym and I’m really enjoying it.” She adds, “I don’t like to overdo it, though, as I’m afraid of getting an injury that could prevent me from exercising. We are so blessed here in Monaco and all along the Côte d’Azur as we have the sea and beautiful trails to run on.”

Maria heard about the swimrun through @swimrunnerinmonaco on Instagram and has “always been inspired by her stories and adventures.” Her biggest challenge in Cannes will be swimming attached to her friend Louise. The pair had been talking about doing a triathlon for years but when they saw a Facebook post about the ÖTILLÖ Cannes swimrun they decided this was it. However, as they are both working moms, they haven’t been able to train together. “Hopefully we get to chance to do a few swimruns together before the big day. Last year we swam 4k together from Nice to Villefranche. It was our first time to swim such a distance and we really enjoyed it.”

Maria hasn’t told family or friends that she is doing the ÖTILLÖ Cannes Experience. “They won’t be surprised as I’m always trying new things.”

Anna Eklund Gear, Nice

Swedish Anna married an Englishman and spent 20 years living in Cornwall, which she describes as “beautiful for trail running”. Growing up in the north of Sweden, Anna competed in cross-country skiing from an early age and running was a natural part of her training. She is signed up for the Nice-Cannes marathon in November when she will run a half-marathon relay (two people each run 21.0975k) and her current training plan has her running four times a week. “Running has always been a part of my life. I completed the Stockholm marathon once in 4 hours which I am proud of and several half-marathons. I am not a speedy runner but enjoy 10k to 21k distances.”

Having moved to the Côte d’Azur two and a half years ago, she “absolutely loves” the weather for outdoor activities. “Swimming and cycling have been on my mind to try since I arrived here. This summer I started practicing a bit of swimming as I am lucky to live just across from the Club Nautique in Nice and was able to fit in an early swim before work. This is really is new for me.”

Having first heard about swimrun through @swimrunnerinmonaco, Anna has signed up with a friend for the ÖTILLÖ Cannes Experience course. “I enjoy a challenge so am excited to try it out. I am definitely most worried about the swim, that I will be too slow or am not able to work out the run/swim equipment. I am really excited for the day, though.”

Claudia Zarikow Glass, Zurich

Claudia was a volunteer at the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship weekend in September. “The swimrun community is a group of athletic nature lovers who are welcoming with big hearts, greatly inclusive and encouraging. My favourite moment was watching Michael Lemmel congratulate the swimrunners after crossing the finish line. It was pure joy.”

The German-American moved to Zurich in 2012 and knew it was home forever. “Nature is highly respected here, much like in Sweden. The mountains provide a great playground for our family and we have discovered the joy of ski touring. Although the children moan climbing up the mountain, they love the reward of skiing down through fresh, virgin snow.”

When Claudia was twelve, she joined her school’s soccer team and “was the absolute worst soccer player in the history of the school.” Out of sympathy from her teammates, she won the Most Improved Award. She left ball sports behind and the next season tried out for the cross-country running team and soon became the school’s best runner. “The tall and popular football players high-fived me in the hallway because my name was often in the school announcements for winning races and I have loved to run ever since.”

But last year, she suddenly developed an acute and chronic pain in her right hip and at the age of 48, she needed a full hip replacement. “I was impatient with the long recovery time, but now I can start running distances up to 5km.”

A year ago while vacationing in Mallorca, she went on morning runs down to the ocean only to arrive hot, sweaty and desperate to jump in the water and combine my run with a swim. She thought “this would be such a fun sport” and later googled “swimrun” because that seemed like what the sport should be called. And up popped ÖTILLÖ.

Her problem, however, was two-fold: she couldn’t freestyle (crawl) swim and needed a swimrun partner. She approached her friend Irene, who had suffered a tragic ski accident three years ago “while trying to avoid a child who seemed to appear out of nowhere.” Irene fell 3 meters off a cliff and shattered her left leg. “I remember how she lay on her back as she was pushed into the helicopter. She was told that same day that her leg may need to be amputated, then later that week was told that they could save the leg but she’d walk with a limp for the rest of her life.”

But anything is possible. “Three years and five operations later, Irene is now walking like a supermodel – even in heels – and running half-marathons. Sometimes people stop her, look at her leg, and ask if she was attacked by a shark. She is a hero to me,” Claudia admits. “Without hesitation, she agreed to be my swimrun buddy and immediately we arranged for swimming lessons. We have since learned how to crawl. As Team Titanium, Irene and I will run the experience race in ÖTILLÖ Malta and will volunteer for the World Series the next day.”

Before Malta, Claudia and her 14-year-old son will do the ÖTILLÖ Cannes Experience swimrun. “My son Adrian caught swimrun fever in July in Engadin when we went to watch and cheer on the ÖTILLÖ athletes. He pleaded with me to join the next race. He is still working on our team name. I hear the Cannes course is absolutely beautiful, offering a stunning juxtaposing of city and nature. My biggest concern is regretting that we didn’t sign up for the Sprint instead. In fact, I am still undecided.”

Claudia adds, “My husband is really excited for me and our family vacation in October will be organized around the Cannes event. My sister is so curious, she wants to start swimrunning as well.”

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