Where can you challenge yourself if you’ve already been to triathlons and done your Ironman competitions? In the Baltic Sea, of course. Swimrun is an extreme way of enjoying our sea and yet another good reason to save it.
Run into the sea and start swimming. Swim for kilometres toward an island looming in the horizon. Crawl up a slippery rock, hurtle across the rugged island. Leap into the sea and start swimming again. Repeat until you’ve reached the 75 km goal.
Swimrun is a torment and a treat, highly esteemed even among endurance athletes. ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship, held every September in the chilly waters of the Baltic Sea, is considered one of the toughest athletic performances in the world.
Extreme sports with respect for nature
The idea behind Swimrun originated in a bet between a group of friends in Sweden. The idea soon evolved into a race from island to island through the Stockholm archipelago, hence the name. It later became the classic race in the international ÖTILLÖ series. The race includes running through 26 islands and jumping in and out of water 52 times all in all.
In 15 years the ÖTILLÖ races have grown into a global phenomenon, and about 500 races are held each year all over the world.
“It allows you to be close to nature in a unique way. There are no tracks or even paths to follow. You can see above and under the water surface”, says Mikko Laine.
“Respect for nature is crucial in ÖTILLÖ. The race admits only as many participants as the local nature can handle. Often there is a beach cleanup before the actual race. And if you litter, by for example dropping an energy gel wrapping, you are immediately disqualified”, says Juha Lindfors.
The two race as a pair in the ÖTILLÖ World Championship series. They battle together for hours and tens of kilometres in the sea and on land, connected to each other with a 1,5-metre rope. It is tough, but you have time to enjoy nature as well.
Video: Ville Kaskivirta
“That is what we jump into, wastewaters”
Every day, approximately 2000 cargo ships sail the Baltic Sea. It is entirely legal for them to discharge their wastewaters into the sea, which is exactly what many of them do. The Swimrun Team turns serious:
“It’s a shocking thought. That is what we swim in, the wastewaters of cargo ships.”
One of Baltic Sea Action Group’s goals is to have cargo ships discharge their sewage at ports, instead of the Baltic Sea. This way, the sewage can be collected and turned into biogas, which in turn can be used as fuel for heavy traffic. Maritime operators have been eager to join the cooperation launched by BSAG, and it will expand to new ports in 2022. The initiative is evolving into a permanent practice.
The BSAG Swimrun Team wants you to help the Baltic Sea
Swimrun enthusiasts experience the state of the Baltic Sea when they go to practice but are forced to turn back at the shore. If there are blue-green algae in the sea, they cannot train.
Juha Lindfors and Mikko Laine speak for the Baltic Sea and encourage people to support the work of BSAG to save our sea. As the BSAG Swimrun Team, they want to remind everyone, that the Baltic Sea is worth helping – and in dire need of help.
“The Baltic Sea is important from an athlete’s point of view too. I want my kids to be able to do this sport in the future. That they have a sea that they can swim in”, Mikko Laine says.
The Baltic Sea cannot wait. Answer the call of The BSAG Swimrun Team and support the work of the Baltic Sea Action Group:
- Donate via bank transfer
Payment recipient: Foundation for a Living Baltic Sea
IBAN: FI20 6601 0001 0935 66
MESSAGE: “BSAG Swimrun Team”
- To order an invoice and for further info on donating, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Jean-Marie Gueye / ÖTILLÖ