SwimRun Catalina Island

The SwimRun Catalina Island race is the first Ötillö event to be held in North America. The Swedish company Ötillö first established the sport of SwimRun in Sweden, and expanded into various countries through Europe. You can read more about the roots of this exciting new sport at our page HERE.

The SwimRun Catalina Island event was the first foray into North America, and the then race directors Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott found a unique location. The first event happened in February 2020.

The 2021 event was due to be held on 20 & 21 November but was postponed to 19 & 20 March 2022.

THIS RACE WILL NOT TAKE PLACE IN 2023, ACCORDING TO ÖTILLÖ, and probably not 2024, either.

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Getting there.

Catalina Island is 21 miles from the coast of California, out in the Pacific ocean. The best way to get there is the ferry from Long Beach, which takes 90 minutes. So if you get into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after lunchtime, you can be on Catalina in time for dinner. Long Beach is a short taxi ride from LAX.

SwimRun Catalina Island

As always, Michael and Mats came up with a challenging course! They called it "hard and magnificent".

There were 3 race distances at Catalina Island;

  • World Series distance, 38.4 km in total.
  • Sprint distance, 14.9 km total distance.
  • Experience distance, which is 7.8 km long.

The World Series distance.

This course covered a total of 38.4 km, with 7 swim legs mixed in with the 8 running sections. There were steep climbs on the runs, with thigh-burning descents back to the water. The longest swim was 1600 meters, with a total swim distance of 8km.

The race started and finished in Two Harbors, before going up into the hills towards the West end with breath-taking hills and views. After going almost to the Western most tip of the island,  you had to run and swim in and around coves coming all the way back to a finish in Two Harbors on the beach. Along the course there were cut-off points, to ensure the safety of  those teams not fast enough to finish before dark.

You had to make sure that you were a strong swimmer,  and also a strong hill runner if you wanted to enjoy this course and the incredible views. Mats and Michael promised that it would be a massive race! From my own personal experience, they mean what they say!

World SwimRun Rankings

There are several swimrun ranking systems in operation. You can see how they work at our swimrun rankings page here.

A Google map of the route for the Ötillö Swimrun Catalina Island eventWorld Series distance course map

The Sprint Distance.

The Sprint distance at SwimRun Catalina Island aimed at those competitors who either didn't want to take on the massive challenge of the World Series distance, or else wanted to race hard and fast. This race distance tended to attract experienced racers who go hard, or newcomers who wanted a longer challenge than the shorter Experience race.

The course was not as hilly as the World Series distance, with hardly any vertical gain, and also just the 4 swim sections. The longest swim was 1400 meters.

You also had the option to race solo if you wanted to race as an individual, as opposed to the traditional SwimRun races which are always in teams of 2.

A Google map of the route for the Ötillö Swimrun Catalina Island sprint distance eventSprint distance course map

SwimRun Catalina Island

The Experience distance.

This was a SwimRun distance for those completely new to the sport, who want to get a taste of what SwimRun is all about. The course was shorter and the swims less exposed than in the longer distances. The running did not involve much ascent or descent.

The total distance was just 7,8km which took in 3 swim sections, the longest of which was just 800 meters. You could take part at this distance either as a team of 2 or as an individual.

A Google map of the route for the Ötillö Swimrun Catalina Island Experience distance event

Here is a video of the course!

The SwimRun Catalina Island was tough but rewarding. The courses took in amazing views, and the swims promised many fish - but expect the waters to be cold!

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