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How Crazy, Drunk Swedes are Stirring Up Endurance Competition


Swimrunning is quickly becoming Sweden’s hottest endurance phenomenon, thanks in no small part to an event called ÖTILLÖ (prounced ah ‘till ah), or “island to island,” in English.

The sport is exactly what it seems: athletes swim and run repeatedly over a set course. If they’re racing ÖTILLÖ, billed as the Swimrun World Championship and held annually on the first Monday in September, athletes will cover a total of 6.2 miles of swimming and 40 miles of trail running in a point-to-point adventure across 24 islands.

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Do they have to be crazy and drunk to compete?

Crazy and drunk is the genesis.

History: So these guys made a drunken bet…No really. “I went to a garage to fix my car,” Lemmel says. “The owner of the garage was also the owner of the hotel, which is now where we finish the race on the island of Utö. He told me his other partner and two employees had gotten drunk in the bar one night, and they had challenged each other to go from Utö to Sandhamn 75 kilometers away, which is where we have the start line now, the next day. The bet was the last of the pairs to get to the hotel in Sandhamn would pay for the drinks, and also pay for the hotel rooms. But when they did arrive, the hotel was fully booked and they all had to sleep outside. So they did it a second year, and it was just after the second year that I met this man at the garage and he said, ‘Do you think this could be an idea that you could make something from?’”

I wonder how many great stories begin this way.

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