By Nancy Heslin
In the summer of 2014, Simon Bôrjeson and Rasmus Regnstrand were driving across Norway, discussing how to plan the following season’s training. Rasmus suggested that they make an adventure out of it, and Simon, who like all Swedes seem to, happened to have a map of Scandinavia on his knee when something grabbed his attention: “Let’s swimrun across Åland Archipelago,” he said.
The swimrun boom in the Stockholm Archipelago at this point was well underway, with ÖTILLÖ being the driving force, but as far as Team Addnature Östersjösimmet knew, the neighbouring archipelago of Åland still remained unchartered swimrun territory, waiting to be discovered.
“A quick Google search revealing that this archipelago is the world’s largest with over 40,000 islands made us even more stoked,” Simon told SLM. “The decision was taken there and then. Together with Rasmus, we would swimrun across Åland Archipelago.”
Once back in Sweden, the duo presented their new idea to their sponsor Addnature, who approved but wanted to add one detail – a start from mainland Sweden. “Neither Rasmus or myself was amused by this idea,” Simon explained, “since it meant that in order to reach the archipelago of Åland, we first had to swim across the Sea of Åland (Ålands hav), a 45km stretch of open water swimming and then a 65km run across the Island of Åland.”
Simon said that they had started to see themselves as swimrunners, no longer swimmers and especially not runners.
The plan was to start on Singö, north of Stockholm, sometime in July 2015, depending on the weather, and to finish in Åbo, on mainland Finland. “We estimated the trip to take 11 days, setting the rules ourselves,” Simon described. “We’d have a support boat bringing food and drinks and dry clothes, sleeping bags and our tents for the nights, but we were not allowed to ever rest on the boat or even touch it.”
In order to improve public awareness about the ever increasing problem of litter in the Baltic Sea, Simon and Rasmus teamed up with Håll Sverige Rent and Östersjöfonden. “On the surface, it was a brilliant idea to collect all the garbage we could find along the way but in practice, this unfortunately became a far bigger challenge than we could have imagined due to the vast amount of littering along shorelines and trails. There sure was no shortage of garbage!”
They guys spent three full days swimming, only stopping on two tiny islands in the middle of the Åland Sea. “The first night we slept in tents but the island was very small and not flat. Luckily we found some driftwood that we could build a platform for the tent.
“The second night we slept in the lighthouse of Märket. Although surprised by how we reached the island, we were very well taken care of by four people from the Finish Lighthouse Society, who were the only people on the island, an island that can only be visited by a small ferry that goes there only a few times every month, and only in good weather. The Finnish-Swedish boarder is painted straight across the rocky island.”
Although our bodies were starting to feel slightly worn out, the following five days were just amazing in so many ways
At the end of the last swim day, a 20km stretch in stormy seas, Simon and Rasmus finally reached Åland: “Our happiness after having completed is well illustrated with our victory dance in our Instagram account. Even though we still had another seven days to go, we continued celebrations with two sauna sessions to warm up and a few beers. After all, we had now reached the land of sauna,” Simon shared.
Early the next morning they set out on a 2-day run crossing the island of Åland. After having slept in tents and lighthouses, they said it felt luxurious to be back to civilisation and all it comes with, including endlessice cream stops along the way. On the evening of Day 5, they reached what they had been looking for: the swimrun playground of the Åland´s Archipelago.
“Although our bodies were starting to feel slightly worn out, the following five days were just amazing in so many ways,” Simon expressed. “So much to see, so much laughter and so many friendly, inviting and curious people, all in beautiful nature. Swimrun at its best! Only once, during one of the few moments we were without the support boat, when I accidentally lost the GPS did we got a little nervous …”
On August 1st, 2015, after having covered 70km of swimming and 230km of running, Simon and Rasmus reached their final destination, the city of Åbo. “An amazing feeling for an hour or so until we realised that all hotels were fully booked due to a sailing yacht festival, which resulted in us having to jump on the first ferry back home.”
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #3 (July 2017)