The rise of the swimrun Sprint
By Nancy Heslin
When ÖTILLÖ launched the Engadin Sprint in Switzerland three years ago, 19 teams signed up. Last week, on July 8, the 14.2 km alpine race, which included 4 swims, attracted 100 teams representing 19 nationalities.
Best friends, fathers and sons, husbands and wives – you name it – swimrunners are teaming up for the shorter distance “unique race in a unique place” that ÖTILLÖ has become famous for.
The advantage of the compact Sprint course is that there are no cut-off times to freak out about, plus not as much time for training is required or, as Kicki Jacobsson of Team Currere Natare points out, for recovery. “I’m a strong swimmer and have done some of the full distance swimruns but I prefer the Sprint because it’s just as much fun but doesn’t take as much out of you.”
Unlike the full distance courses – which range from 36.815 km (Cannes, France) to 46.505 km (Engadin), and include 7 to 17 swim sections – the Sprint courses vary from a total of 11.935 km (Utö, Sweden) to 16.885 km (Engadin) with 4 to 9 shorter swim sections. No wonder newcomers to the sport are getting hooked because you can run and swim at top speed or take your time to enjoy the course with your partner.
At the ÖTILLÖ Utö Sprint in May of this year, 99 teams crossed the Finish Line, including first time swimruuners Team Alfajuliet – Amanda Falk and Johanna Andersson. “The sprint distance was perfect for us,” Amanda says. “Johanna only learned the crawl during the winter and I gave birth to my second child just 8 month before.”
Johanna adds, “The environment was beautiful and the briefing with Michael Lemmel was powerful. We’d heard him speak about the race in a podcast but to meet him in person and to have him cheer us on during the race was amazing.”
Amanda, who plans to do more swimrun Sprints, “absolutely recommends” this distance to others swimrunners. “Fun and beautiful, Utö Sprint is a perfect race for that first experience – and you don’t have to worry about the time.”
For husband and wife Nick Dent and Hilary Wood (Team Envol from Down Under), Utö was also their first attempt at a swimrun. “We really only had two weeks to prepare as our son encouraged us to enter this event when we arrived in Sweden,” Nick, 66, recounts.
“As a married couple we’ve been working as a team for many years. However, Hilary found the open water swimming quite challenging due to the temperature. This was frustrating for me as I was pulling her so we ditched the tow rope for the later swims and this worked better.” On the runs, with Nick’s knees acting up, Hilary, 62, ended up pulling him.
“We didn’t have any expectations of doing a ‘fast’ race and we enjoyed the challenge. Also, we were very fortunate to be supported by Nicolas Remires with wetsuits and advice. This proved to be essential to us completing the race.”
Stefano Prestinoni reveals, “I really like the ÖTILLÖ concept that the day before the long race you have a possibility to do a shorter race in the same beautiful place.”
Stefano and Henrik Kindgren (Yo Ark Swimshop) teamed up for the first time to win the Utö Sprint with a time of 1:27:34. “We both have kids in the same swimming group so lately, during their practice, we started to train together and decided to do a race together,” says Henrik, 2012 ÖTILLÖ World Championship Finisher.
“The Stockholm archipelago is a beautiful place to race and while we were aiming for a win, in swimrun you always have to be prepared for surprises.”
The next ÖTILLÖ Sprint is the Final 15 on Saturday, September 1st. For anyone wanting a taste of Sweden’s epic Swimrun World Championship course, this covers the last fifth of the race with 11.95 km running plus nine swim sections totaling 2.64 km (the longest swim is 1150 m) and finishes on the island of Utö. Also, there’s the 1000 Lakes Sprint in Germany (September 29th) and the new Cannes Sprint (October 20th).
“We will definitely be doing more Sprint races,” Stefano assures. “For those who haven’t tried swimrun yet, the Sprint is the perfect way to start – it’s a good challenge to test your strengths, find the gear that best suits you and, most important, find a partner that can help you or keep up!”
ARTICLE FIRST PUBLISHED IN SWIMRUN LIFE MAGAZINE ISSUE #8 (JULY 2018).