The World of Swimrun: A Story of a First Time Swimrunner from the USA in Torekov, Sweden

The World of Swimrun: A Story of a First Time Swimrunner from the USA in Torekov, Sweden

The Torekov Swimrun

~Story of a First Time Swimrunner from the USA~

Torekov, Sweden

By Tim Walther

Last year I decided that I wanted to find out what the excitement of the Swimrun was all about. I had been dreaming about running and swimming down stunning coastlines in a foreign land and being in pictures like this!

As I told people about the idea, heads turned curiously as very few people in the USA even knew about Swimrunning. I wanted to go to where there would be many people passionate about this wildly popular sport and an inspiring destination in Europe would provide just that. I also wanted a challenge that would be in that “sweet spot” between not too hard and not too easy. After quite a bit of research and the help of the World of Swimrun Race Calendar, I found what seemed to be the perfect fit – the Torekov Swimrun. Located in Torekov, Sweden this Swimrun goes between Bastad and Torekov following the coast of the North Sea.

The Torekov Swimrun involves 15 miles (24K) of travel down the coast with about 3 miles (4500 meters) of swimming and 12 miles (18200 meters) of running.

The event also happened to have an open water swim race the following day, an added bonus for what would make for an outstanding weekend of adventure.

As I prepared for the event, I realized that Swimruns require a fair amount of logistics with travel, partners and gear. Among other things, I had never used hand paddles nor a swim buoy and my new Orca Swimrun wetsuit I bought at the last minute was, of course, too tight. Luckily, the race director, Emma Jonsson, graciously helped me to find a partner and connected me with Valter Olander who was an excited racer gunning for the podium. He was also a Sailfish wetsuit rep with an extra wetsuit for me to use.

I began my travel from my home town in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, flew into Copenhagen and made my way down the coast, arriving in Bastad the day before the event. I was greeted by Emma who took me on a first hand tour of the course as we arranged race logistics and put up course markers, flags and buoys. The idyllic course would travel through a variety of terrain including woods, beach, pathways, farmland and manicured gardens. We even went for a warm up swim to search for jellyfish, which seemed to be a big concern for a lot of the participants.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the conditions quite enjoyable, with calm seas and the water temperature around 70 degrees. Thankfully, Emma was able to report that we did not find any jellyfish!

At last August 24th, race day, was here! The weather was warm and mostly cloudy. I was excited to meet my new partner, Lindha, for the first time. Lindha is an expert in orienteering, a strong swimmer and an experienced racer. She also wanted to have FUN and enjoy the experience, which was the most important to me.

We gathered at Hotel Riviera Beach for the start when Lindha realized I did not have one final piece of gear – the strap to connect the swim cords. She had figured I might need one, and “magically” pulled out a new strap from her gear bag. She then asked me if I was going to wear socks. I didn’t have those either, and made a mental note of another item to have for the next race.

After a short warm up with people buzzing back and forth, nearly 140 eager racers gathered in the trees, ready to begin the adventure. I listened to announcements I didn’t understand, but heard Emma mention what seemed to be a dedication to Marten Bjornsson, a pioneering adventurer who had an integral part of the creation of the race, but had recently had passed on. The thought crossed my mind that we always have the opportunity to be an inspiration to others and I wanted to be the bring a positive attitude and energy to the race. I was, after all, the only American there and wanted to represent my country in a positive way.

Lindha and I positioned ourselves in the middle of the pack and the gun went off! It was a great start, except I forgot to start my Garmin watch and spent the first minute running while almost tripping on tree roots and pressing buttons so I could track our pace and distance covered. We ran through the woods as teams scattered on various pathways and inevitably funneled down to one path for the first 2000 meter run. Lindha and I settled into what felt like an enjoyable pace, my watch indicating we are averaging about a 9 minute mile.

We began the first swim section with 100 meters of wading, starting out with no cord. We quickly decided to swim connected as it was confusing enough seeing where each other was. Lindha took the lead swimming ahead. This was the first time I had ever swam as a team and my primary focus was not hitting the rope and keeping the pace. We got into a nice groove considering this was the first time I had used hand paddles and did not have fins or a swim buoy for my legs.

Exiting from the swim we got into a rhythm that would continue for the rest of the race. Lindha would unzip the back of my wetsuit to start the run and as we approached the next swim, she would zip it back up and hand me the cord to connect. Because my wetsuit was so hot I ran with my cap off, which I would put back on as I approached the water, place my goggles on and take the plunge. We got faster each time we went in and out of the water I learned how to improve efficiency during transitions. Overall, there would be 9 transitions for 9 runs averaging about 1.25 miles (2 km) and 9 swims averaging 1/3/ mile (500 meters) each. Here is an overview of the course segments.

As the course unfolded it was hard to believe I was actually in my first Swimrun! Could it get any better than this?

One of the land segments involved climbing a steep hill and entering into a beautiful garden. Being from the mountains, we ran up the hill passing more people and enjoyed our hard work as we cruised through the flourishing gardens.

The course was a superb blend of spectacular swims and magical countryside runs. It was hard not to slow down and really take it all in as we kept a strong pace. This was a race after all! I kept a fun attitude and of course shared a few words to stimulate a little friendly competition as we passed people on the course. We all seemed to enjoy the interactions.

My favorite part of the day was exiting one of the swims. As we approached the shore, I looked up to see 6 or 7 pairs of people slowly moving over what seemed to be very slippery terrain.

This type of exit was something I had a lot of experience with as this was the norm when abalone diving in Northern California. I unclipped my cord from Lindha and headed for the shore, except I didn’t attempt to stand up. I kept sliding on my stomach over the rocks all the way to the shore. Lindha followed and we popped up at the very end and started running straight away, passing several teams who were struggling to exit the sea. We burst down the trail celebrating and cheering each other on.

The course continued on and to my surprise, I heard someone calling my name at one of the exits. It was Daniel, my original partner who had decided to not run due to a knee injury. He was there cheering everyone on, and it was so cool to see him there!

“You have a beautiful swim coming ahead. Enjoy it!”

I thought to myself, “How can it get any more beautiful?!” But he was right, the next stretch swimming around the rocks was gorgeous.

We exited once again and climbed up steep rocky terrain to what was the psychological crux of the event. The rest would be mostly downhill or flat and we had about a third of the course to go.

As we made our way through the final sections of the course, I began to get a little tinge in my calf and ran with a little hesitation. The last thing I wanted was a torn calf muscle during the last few miles. Lindha adjusted to my pace and I wondered how she was so strong. It turns out that she grew up running with her brother who was an Olympic gold medalist for cross country running. That seemed to explain where she got some of her tenacity and endurance!

We encouraged each other through the difficult final portion of the race and kept a decent pace until the end. On our final swim we were passed by one couple that we had been playing cat and mouse with and all I could think about was how I needed bigger paddles and either fins or a buoy to help me swim faster!

Lindha and I finished together and celebrated our experience, and my first successful Swimrun! The “Couple for a Day,” the fun name the race timer had given us as a placeholder for our temporary team, had crossed the line in 3 hours and 30 minutes, finishing 15th place in the mixed division. While it was a race, the experience of moving fast over stunning terrain with a great partner made it worth all the effort.

I finished up my race, gave a big hug to Emma to thank her for producing such a wonderful event and went to find Valter Olander to return my wetsuit. It turns out that he did indeed take first place! His strategy of swimming with fins seemed to pay off and his drive to win got him and his partner on the Podium! As we raised a glass and celebrated the good times, my mind began to drift toward the open water swim race that would take place the next day, which would certainly be another exciting tale to tell.

(Emma Johnsson, Race Director)

(Valter and his partner, finishing in first)

As a first time Swimrunner, I can say that this is a sport that I will definitely continue. There are so many amazing destinations to explore, people to meet and races to experience. I can’t wait for the next one, and may just create one of my own in the USA!

I did learn a great deal from this first time experience. In an effort to share a highlight of lessons learned, here is a quick checklist for things to consider for anyone planning their first time Swimrun.

Check out the DRONE video of the Torekov Swimrun!

A Checklist for Your First Swimrun

I did learn a great deal from this first time experience. In an effort to share a highlight of lessons learned, here is a quick checklist for things to consider for anyone planning their first time Swimrun.

You will need:

  • A Swimrun wetsuit: The two brands that appear to be very popular are Orca and Sailfish
  • Swimrun shoes:  I went with Salomon S Lab, and love them!
  • Socks: There are ones specific to Swimruns
  • Swim-cap and goggles
  • A swim Buoy or Fins to assist with swimming faster!
  • Hand paddles: I used small beginner paddles. Undoubtedly bigger paddles would assist with swimming faster and require some practice in advance. 
  • A Swimrun cord to connect you with your partner
  • A partner! While the ideal scenario is to come with a partner, there are many avenues on social media to connect with someone at your event. 
  • The right race!  The Torekov Swimrun is a perfect first time experience, and the World of Swimrun has an excellent list of events to be considered. 
  • Training: Being prepared for your event will make everything much more enjoyable.

A Watch: Optional, but great to have, particularly watches that have Swimrun features, like the Garmin Fenix 5 

About Tim Walther:

Tim Walther lives in the mountain town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the USA.  He is the President of Grand Dynamics International, a keynote speaker and facilitator of adventure retreats, team building programs and unique corporate experiences.  In 2018 he created his own 60 Km Swimrun experience by swimming across 7 lakes (30K) in Grand Teton National Park and travelling (30K) on foot in between them. 

You can watch a short film or read about about the experience that inspired his desire to explore the world of Swimruns: The Lake to Lake Link: Endurance Swimming and Overcoming Obstacles. 

Connect with Tim Walther:  
Linked In: timwalther
Instagram – @timwalther007
Email: tim@granddynamics.com