Old Godzilla (Or What’s Coming Next)

Posted on July 6, 2017. Filed under: breca buttermere, swimrun |

I remember the first time I heard about it like it was yesterday. It instantly captured my imagination as one of those mythical events that I would never do. Of course I wouldn’t. What business would it be of mine to do such a mythical event?

Of course I wouldn’t.

Of course I would.

It was just before my first Ironman that my coach mentioned that her partner was competing in an event in Sweden. We hit a pretty significant communication barrier when an Englishwoman and a Scotsman try to share a Swedish word.

“He’s doing Ermagherd”


“No Oootooderrr”

“Old Godzilla??”

As Scandic consonants transmitted via Yorkshire rattled round my head, I became distracted by the strains of the Proclaimers – “I’ve been so sad/
Since you said my accent was bad/He’s worn a frown/This Caledonia clown”.

Record scratch.  Never mind the name, what is it??

“A swimrun”

“Eh? Like an aquathlon”

“Noooooo. They run in wetsuit over islands and swim in trainers between islands.”

WHAT DA HECK?, as Rory would say.

Later that day I hit up google. ÖTILLÖ. Umlauted and everything, to stress that it was an otherworldly in a very foreign country. As with all the best events it was born in a pub after far too much booze. Of course it was – how else could anyone have come up with the concept?  75km running and 10km swimming across the 26 islands of the Stockholm archipelago, in two person teams, you wear whatever you need for the whole race. HOLY. SHIT.  What. An. Amazing. Challenge.

The race was in it’s infancy but I had no doubt this sport was going to be big.

And then, just as quickly as I heard about it, I forgot about it. Wrapped up for four years in the Ironman bubble.

But then, as predicted, swimrun got big and it came to the UK. I devoured blogs. I used google translate to understand articles in the scandic sporting press where swimrun was massive. I salivated.

However. Sad face. I could never find anyone daft enough to want to do the swim legs with me so swimrun remained a dream.

The first time I drove to what has become our usual openwater swimming session with Andy I mentioned ÖTILLÖ in passing. He was in the Ironman bubble though. After he did Ironman UK, I sent him some links to the ÖTILLÖ world championship that was just about to happen.  There is nothing not to love about swimrun. He was biting.

Even last year I still thought of swimrun as pretty niche. A distant foreign trip for the crazies of an excruciating degree.  Then Breca brought it within reach. Breca Buttermere looked like that mix of gruelling, crazy, fun challenge that makes you sit up and pay attention. I read Glenn’s blog. I was convinced. Andy was in. We signed up.

Breca Buttermere takes in the best of the Western Fells. Swimming in Buttermere (kinda obvs really), Loweswater, Crummock and Derwent and running (or, ahem, “running”) over Dale Head tackling the biggest gradient in swimrun along the way.

The whole premise remains vaguely absurd. Basically running up mountains in a wetsuit and wet trainers then plunging into a lake in same, and repeating.

As we run around Lochore at 7am on a Sunday morning we scare the shit out of the unsuspecting dog walker as we squelch past in attire normally restricted to gimps escaping a dungeon.  That is, most likely, the assumption that they make when they see us.

But it feels like it is going to be worth it. The swimrunner Markus Rössel puts it far more eloquently than I ever could:

“Adding the splendour of a dynamic team to the magnificence of endurance racing is a very motivating recipe. Mixing all of that round striking surroundings and a harsh course and stirring it together with your finest friend is just something that is pretty unique. Swimrun is not only a challenging mishmash of two disciplines. Equally this game involves much more than fitness and stamina as you need to function as an unit while you travel through water and across landmass.”


Andy is a runner and I am a swimmer. It’s not the perfect team design but we will batter through 38km of running, 6km of swimming and 2000m of ascent in the magnificent Lake District, absorbing whatever the terrain, the weather, our bodies and the challenge itself throw at us.  Not so much Batman and Robin, but Ironman and Ironman.

Three weeks to go.



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3 Responses to “Old Godzilla (Or What’s Coming Next)”

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I miss swimrun! Good luck to you sir. The course this year looks interesting and challenging. Glad Dale head is still in it. That’s what you call “a fucker” looking forward to reading the report!

Liked by 1 person

Cheers Glenn. Looks another (loveable) monster. I’m sure the report will be another epic!

Liked by 1 person

As a friend of Glenn’s this all sounds very familiar 🙂


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