Swimrun came to the UK in a big way this weekend, as the Swedish originators of the format, ÖtillÖ, hosted their first world series British race in the Isles of Scilly.
Meaning 'island to island' the ÖtillÖ series began as the result of a drunken bet between two friends, who wondered how long it would take to race across the Stockholm archipelago of islands. That race now forms the world championship event each September, but as the format increases in popularity, more qualifying races are appearing across Europe.
Across land and sea
The swimrun format comprises alternating sections of tough trail running and sea swimming and you race in teams of two, so each pairing can support each other through the often tricky race conditions. In the Scilly race, competitors took on a total distance of 37.5km, with 30km of trail running around the Scilly coastlines and 7.5km of swims between islands.
Those swims weren't for the faint-hearted either. The first swim was 2,000m and the last – back to the starting island of St Mary's – was 2,350m against a tricky current. Shorter swims made up the middle section as the race truly lived up to the 'island to island' concept.
Athletes from all over the world attended. Many Swedish swimrunners were in Scilly hoping to take the win at the first UK race, while it also attracted people from as far afield as Japan. Many British athletes were competing to try the format for the first time and they included former pro triathlete and swim coach Richard 'the fish' Stannard, who was competing with ultra-runner Andrew Fargus.
It was Stannard and Fargus who led from the start and stuck to a clear race strategy to eventually take the win in the hotly-contested men's category. “We set off hard to take the lead and pressed all the way, but we had to constantly look over our shoulders,” said Stannard. “Swimrun is not just a race, it’s a massive adventure and this course is beautiful!
“It is a stunning set of islands and such a great way to see them. Even if you are trying to win you get through some amazing scenery and there were lots of people cheering along the course, which was really welcoming. The race was tough, especially the last 2,350-metre-long swim when the body really starts to feel it.”
In the women's and mixed races it was the Swedish teams that prevailed, with the current Women's ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Champion Annika Ericsson taking the win in the women's category with her partner Maria Edstedt.
Also racing was 220 Triathlon Editor Helen Webster (check back online later this week for her race blog) with Swedish partner Göran Wernqvist, and 220 writer and adventure racer Andy Blow, whose race report will appear in the next issue of 220.
Top 3 Race Results
1. Richard Stannard and Andrew Fargus (GBR), Team Richard & Andrew, 5:02:44
2. Stefano Prestinoni and Fredrik Axegård (SWE), Team Swimshop.se, 5:04:22
3. Henrik Wahlberg and Claes Wiréhn (SWE), Team Löplabbet, 5:07:33
1. Martina Ågren (USA) and Oskar Davidsson (SWE), Team Carbon 5:49:14
2. Anna Schlosser (SWE) and Johan Johansson (DEN), Team Crawlkurser.com 6:04:34
3. Ulrik Persson and Maggan Persson (SWE), Team Helikopter Wing 6:41:21
1. Annika Ericsson and Maria Edstedt (SWE), Team Trispot, 5:56:40
2. Rosemary Byde and Isobel Joiner (GBR), Team sportextreme.com 6:21:39
3. Jenny Rice and Claire Wilson (GBR), Team Girls Wot Can, 6:41:47
For a complete result list click here. To find out more about ÖtillÖ visit the website here.
Tempted to try a race? See the current issue of 220 Triathlon for a 6-page feature on swimrun gear. Subscribe here.
To discover more about the Isles of Scilly, go to visitislesofscilly.com. To book your journey, visit islesofscilly-travel.co.uk or phone 01736 334220. There are Skybus flights to St. Mary’s all year round from Land’s End and Newquay Airports, and between March and October from Exeter Airport. Prices start from £140 return from Land’s End. From spring to late-autumn, the Scillonian lll passenger ship sails up to seven days a week between Penzance and St. Mary’s. Prices start from £90 return. 220 Triathlon stayed at the fantastic Star Castle Hotel, St. Mary’s, star-castle.co.uk.