It’s the end of another amazing season for swimrun - another year which has seen the sport booming in popularity around the world!
And not just by the increasing numbers of elite endurance athletes who are joining in, but also because of the hundreds of adventurous nature lovers who want to experience open water swimming and trail running in an entirely new way.
Swimrun is like no other sport, after all, you won’t find many other ways to run in a wetsuit and swim wearing shoes! But that’s swimrun – a unique way to experience and reconnect with nature.
It all started one night in Sweden, when four friends decided to bet which pair could get to the Island of Sandhamn from the Island of Utö using only their four limbs – the rest became Swimrun history.
This is quite an inception story for a sport that has exploded in popularity with more than 500 known races in the world, across 24 countries and on 5 continents.
If you haven't noticed already, WE LOVE Swimrun – we supported over 15 events this year and even hosted our own swimrun in Devon, England.
It’s an exhilarating way to connect with nature and get lost in the elements, a challenge that involves teamwork, racing in pairs on trails, through water and crossing beautiful landscapes around the world. It's a great way to keep fit, build strong feet — and anyone can do it! You don’t have to start with an ÖtillÖ World Series race, as most events will host shorter race versions, ideal for those completely new to the sport or not ready to compete over bigger distances.
There’s’ nothing quite like the feeling of working towards a goal, testing your body and immersing yourself in the elements – whilst sharing that experience with your teammate.
Feeling inspired? We hope so!
As the season drew to a close, we sat down with two of the top swimrun athletes in the world, Fanny Kuhn and Nicolas Remires to reflect on the season past as well as their plans for the future.
Coming from many years as a top endurance athlete and coach, Nicolas founded Team Envol in 2017 - he keeps busy training and promoting the sport all over the world, as well as winning an impressive sweep of medals and championships along the way.
This year’s World Champion in the Women’s Category alongside teammate Desiree Andersson, Fanny trains with Team Envol and is the co-founder of WILD Swimrun, running coaching and events to get more women into the sport.
Read on to find out more about them, what motivates them – and the sport you too can be a part of!
What are your main motivations for doing swimrun? How did you start racing?
Fanny: On a triathlon I met former a former swimmerwho told me about swimrun and asked me if I wanted to do a race with him. It was the ÖtillÖ Utö full distance (40km) and I had only run 10km in one go before - this race had a total of 35km running! I hesitated, but the little adventure devil inside of me couldn’t refuse. It was such a cool experience and we actually managed to win the race (let’s just say, it wasn’t because of my running!) I’ve been hooked ever since, it’s such a great community and the best way to travel and discover new places.
Nicolas: I started swimrun by meeting other swimrunners about 5 years ago. They asked me to join them and try a race. I liked the team element and that was it.
But my main motivation for the sport is to discover new territories, it gives me a feeling of freedom. My best swimruns are when I just go straight ahead without thinking if there will be a path to run on. I just go, I find a lake, I swim across and then just keep running on the other side…
And in the long term, what are your swimrun goals?
Fanny: One I’ve had for several years now was to be World Champion – which I’ve achieved this year! Now I guess I’ll have to set new ones for 2020! I’d like to inspire others to get into the sport, as well as try new races in places I’ve never seen before.
Nicolas: My goal is to win the ÖtillÖ World Championship in 2020, as well as continuing to work to make my Team Envol the top Swimrun platform worldwide.
What keeps you going when your body wants to give up? Especially in such a long race like the World Championship?
Nicolas: During the World Championships, I know I will never give up. This race is so long, I know lots of things can happen in the last 90 minutes. Ultimately, the mind is stronger than the body. It is important to find the right thoughts to keep going when the body starts to slow down. Finding something positive to focus on is about mental resilience.
Fanny: The team spirit is a big factor here. You cannot give up because you are in this together. Also thinking about the goal helps. For example, in the World Championship, the hope of breaking the world record kept us going even though we were way ahead of the second team and we were almost sure to take home the win.
What are your main strengths, and how do you overcome your shortcomings in a race?
Fanny: One moment really stands out for me here, from 2018. I was having a rough day and I didn’t feel right in my body. But we were fighting head to head with another team. They passed us running on a flat stretch. In my head I was so tired, but somehow, I decided this was our moment. So I upped our pace, and Desiree followed. We didn’t need to talk about it, we just felt it, together. We eventually passed the other team, going at a pace way faster than our usual, and held them off to win with just a few minutes margin. It’s amazing what your body can do when your mind is in the right place. Endurance sport is so much more mental than physical, and a strong mind is one of my strengths. I guess my other one is my swimming!
Nicolas: My strength is that I never give up. And my running legs. I can push hard through the runs – and the longer the race, the better. My shortcomings tend to be my swimming, and here I work with my teammate.
What was your biggest challenge this year?
Nicolas: My biggest challenge in 2019 was to deal with bad results. I race to win and I didn’t win in 2019. It was frustrating. Always something seemed to go wrong. I felt that my shape this year was great, my best ever in fact, but somehow the results weren’t just there...
Fanny: For me it was the half marathon at the end of the World Championship course. I struggle with this one mentally and physically because it’s quick road running. But I’ve got through it 5 years in a row, and now I’m starting to feel better about it. Desiree helped me keep up the pace very well this year.
And your personal highlight this year?
Fanny: Winning the World Championship and moving forward with our WILD Swimrun brand to get more women into the sport.
Nicolas: For me it was a Swimrun I did in my local town of Carcassonne – winning at home felt very special. I left France 12 years ago, so to live the growth of the sport worldwide and then to come home and find 300 swimrunners on the start line was a great feeling.
What is swimrun about for you?
Nicolas: It’s all about the team spirit, the feeling of freedom and the taste of effort.
That’s why I swimrun.
Fanny: I recently listened to a podcast with (global trail-running superstar) Kilian Jornet, and he said something that stuck with me. He said, “I don’t particularly like running as such, it is a tool for me to access what I love, which is to be in the mountains”. In a way, it was a relief to hear him say that. You know, this guy is the best in the world! I am good at swimrun, but I have to admit that I do not particularly like running. So I agree with him, it is a tool for me to access mountains, coastlines, islands, forests and other amazing places that let me discover and experience nature. Essentially, I think swimrun is all about discovering nature as part of a team.
Inspired to join them?! Then get training for the 2020 swimrun season! If you’re not familiar with open water swimming, hit the pool and gain technique and confidence swimming longer distances. If you tend to road run, get onto a trail. By next spring there are swimruns all over the place you can try – and they need not be the long races the likes of Fanny and Nicolas like to get their teeth into! Any distance of swimrun will be an awesome challenge, an adventure and way to experience nature like you’ve never before, and everyone is welcome in this community.
Get ready to reconnect to your wild side and take the plunge!