Ötillo Swimrun

By Richard Mitchell and Mogsy Ford

Updated May 2024

The company Otillo are the inventors and originators of Swimrun.  Otillo Swimrun is usually spelled with an 'umlaut' above the letter 'O',  like this - "Ö". The two tiny dots above the letter O mean that it should be pronounced like OE - (almost like 'err') . The word Ötillö is Swedish for 'island to island'. It describes the sport in one word.

Two women competing in the Otillo World championship wading out of the sea, wearing orange tops and hats.

If you are looking for Ötillö events, check our race calendars for 2024 - European events are listed HERE, and for the USA and Rest of World click HERE.



However, Ötillö WILL be holding the following events in 2024:

Otillo Swimrun World series swim caps on a timber tableOur hats from Isles of Scilly World Series event 2019

The Garmin Swim 2 is an excellent watch for Swimrun!

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In August 2023 Ötillö announced that it had acquired Odyssey in the USA. Events will be run under the Ötillö Swimrun USA banner.

Ödyssey owners, Lars Finanger, Aaron Palaian and Brent Molsberry, will continue to manage the US events. Finanger will be President and Palaian the Head of Operations of the newly established Swimrun USA Inc.. Finanger will also become a partner in Swimrun AG, which underlines his commitment to grow ÖTILLÖ world-wide.

Ötillö Swimrun - History

The first race that we would recognize as being a SwimRun event was the result of a drunken bet in a Stockholm bar. There were 4 people involved. They were the 2 Andersson brothers, Janne Lindberg, and Anders Malm.

On the table in front of them, the napkins had a map of the Stockholm archipelago - all the islands. At some point during the evening, one of the men wondered out loud if it might be possible to run and swim the length of the island chain - swimming from island to island, and running over each one to the next swim.

Of course, everyone thought this was a crazy idea. Who on earth would want to swim in the freezing waters of the Sea, as well as running over the rocky islands too?

Well, with the assistance of some alcohol, a bet was made. They agreed to race each other, in teams of 2, across the islands and sea of the Stockholm archipelago. They had to check in at each of 3 restaurants en route, and the first team to arrive at each restaurant could eat and drink whatever they wanted, with the second team to arrive paying for it!

When they started the race, it took them 28 hours to finish, and they were too exhausted at the end to do any partying!

The following year they had the race again, with the same results.

In 2005, one of the original 4 had the idea to make a commercial (ie. proper) race event out of the crazy sport. They approached 2 experienced adventure racers, Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott, to ask if they thought it might be possible.

Otillo Swimrun race directors Mats Skott and Michael Lemmel, founders of SwimrunMats Skott, left; Michael Lemmel, right

Mats and Michael thought it was not a good idea, and initially they did not want to get involved. However, after a period of time, they came around to the idea, and agreed to set up a series of events. At this time, the new sport did not have a name.

It was only after they had run a few events that one of their podium finishers, Erika Rosenbaum, came up with the name "SwimRun".  She simply said to Micheal -

"Hey, you should call this event a SwimRun!" -  and so the sport had its name.

Ötillö - (island to island) now had a name for the new sport.

In September 2022 Ötillö released a 42-minute documentary about the 2022 Swimrun World Championship. Watch the documentary below!

It is a story among many stories and a glimpse into what ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship and swimrun is all about.

Otillo Swimrun

Otillo Swimrun race director Michael Lemmel wearing a black T shirtMichael Lemmel

If you ever went to an Ötillö event, you would have seen that Michael Lemmel tends to take the stage more than Mats. Michael would do the introductions, the pre-race briefing, and was generally be more visible at the start and finish, and sometimes even around the course.

Mats Skott was less visible, and seemed to operate in the background more. However, he sometimes popped up unexpectedly, such as at the post-race raffle in Engadin, Switzerland in 2017, where we won the 2nd prize! In the photo below, Mats is on the extreme right of the photo, and we are on the left.

Three men and two women standing in a marquee with prizes from a Swimrun lotteryRaffle at Engadin - Mats Skott is on the extreme Right

Check out the video link below!

While course marking on Üto for the Final 15k Sprint CLICK HERE to see what the course markers found on the route!!

Race Calendar 2024

Check our race calendars for 2024 - European events are listed HERE, and for the USA and Rest of World click HERE.

Otillo SwimRun World Championships

This event was last held in September 2023.  150 teams finished the race and 2 new course records were set in the Men's and Mixed categories.

The total distance was 75km, with 65km trail running and 10km swimming.  The event took place over and between the 24 islands between Sandhamn and Utö in the Stockholm archipelago.

The official film from 2022 can be seen below.

We have done 4 SwimRun events, of which 3 were run by Ötillö.  There are a few things to note about the events run by Michael and Mats;

  • They are always tough, especially the World Series races.
  • The World Championship over 75 km in the Stockholm archipelago is regarded as the toughest one-day event on the planet.
  • Even in Sprint events, the course will take the hardest route.
  • Nearly all Ötillö races are held in spectacular but hard-to-reach locations.
  • Water temperatures are nearly always low - around 10 - 12 degrees Celcius.

If you are taking part in Ötillö Swimrun events and Merit events, you earn points towards their World Series. You can check your overall position HERE, the TSR ranking homepage.

As the first SwimRun company, Otillo deserve a special place - they invented a whole new sport! Michael and Mats have now moved on to new challenges, and the new Race Director in 2023  at Ötillö is Staffan Bjorklund, who won the 2015 World championship.

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