Drunk bet to world championships
The swimrun dates back to 2002 in Sweden, when a local hotel owner and a couple of his employees created a drunken bet after work. The challenge: race in pairs to the town of Sandhamn, with a time limit of 24 hours. The single rule was that they had to hit checkpoints at three restaurants scattered on islands between ÖtillÖ and Sandham. Losing team had to pay for the hotel stay, dinner and drinks. The following morning, the “original 4” raced through 26 islands, swimming 6 miles and running the other 41 miles. Both teams missed the 24-hour deadline and were too exhausted on arrival to celebrate their trek. They did the same challenge the following year and found the same result.
In 2006, an attempt was made to develop a commercial race out of the Swedish island-hopping challenge. After a couple years of few teams and almost an equal number of DNFs, race developers learned a helpful secret: the only way to complete the race is by moving the whole time and not taking any breaks. Year by year the race picked up steam, and now it is an internationally recognized event with a World Championships. It is considered one of the most difficult races in the world by CNN (and most people who have attempted the race.)
The late Jeff Cole and other Americans who experienced the original ÖtillÖ brought the race to the U.S. in 2015, and it featured a dozen athletes on a five-island jaunt. It evolved to become Casco Bay Swimrun in 2016, and was praised for feeling similar to the Swedish standard.
That year, there were only four small swimrun events in the North America. In 2018, there were over a dozen in North America, over a hundred throughout Scandinavia and the rest of the world. It’s growing fast as triathletes, trail runners and swimmers are finding this challenging, team-based, sport with a laid-back, unpretentious, fun-loving vibe something that is strangely attractive.