“Ready? Ready! Go!” We leap from the ferry, clad in neoprene, shoes on, tethered to each other; Our SwimRun journey had begun. Before I try to put the experience into words, perhaps I should rewind a bit.
I’m deeply privileged to be able to say I’ve found myself toeing the line at many of the iconic endurance races within Europe; primarily as an ultra-distance mountain runner, but my childhood swimming history and thirst for adventure meant it was only a matter of time before I gave SwimRun a go. My first full event had been with the Batman to my endurance Robin, Tin “Onoda” Wilcock, at the frankly awesome Breca Buttermere. Since then I have been totally hooked on Sweden’s finest export.
It’s all about the adventure for me. Pitting myself against the best Mother Nature has to offer, facing weather you wouldn’t take your dog out in, turning a corner to be blow away by the sunrise after racing all night, feeling on top of the world in a cloud inversion and, now, rocking up to the edge of a Fjord, jumping in and crossing with nothing more than the human body to propel us… is it possibly to have more fun with your clothes on?
Sitting on the fast ferry taking in the breath-taking beauty of Norway on my first trip to Scandinavia the anticipation and excitement is slowly twisting and squeezing at my stomach. The buzz is palpable, the apprehension of swapping the hugging warmth of the boat for the 13 degrees of the Fjord building. The start of Rockman adds to the iconic nature of the environment. Participants start on one of two ferries, the safety gates are unlocked, the boats turned to the Fjord wall and four teams head up the lines of competitors flying high on the adrenalin of a race start.
The boats edged closer to the Fjord wall, the anticipation builds, the four team’s senses must have been on fire; listening for the starting hooter and staring down the other teams. Focus narrows, but the desperation to start is countered by the desire to be as close to the wall as possible. The hooter went, but the boats were still moving. Confusion spread, the four teams frantically checking left and right to see who moves first. One team breaks the deadlock, the others followed whilst panicked shouts went up for the boats to stop so as not to run over the competitors!
After what seemed like a lifetime the boats switched direction and like lemmings the gates were flooded by teams wanting to be as close to the wall as possible. “Go! Go! Go!” Suddenly it’s like that moment from a film where everybody dives out and freefalls from the plane. Adrenaline takes over and hits overload: the start of a race, the confusion, the leap of faith, the cold plunge, the lunacy of an open water swim start, the complication of being tethered together mixed with the fear of crossing another team and getting tangled – any one of these is enough to create a spike, but compounded together is a whole new experience.
The rest of the race somehow manages to live up to this most intense of beginnings. From comedy tow rope length issues on the first swim, to the freshly made waffles on the roadside, through to the full artisan cold meats and cheese platter that appeared after the 1800m Fjord crossing that saw our face muscles freeze. Whilst this race and even that year of the race may prove to be an exceptional high, it’s just one of many experiences I’ve had through SwimRun. It’s proven to be the most incredible way to explore parts of the world I would have been unlikely to visit otherwise and those I would I’ve certainly seen from a totally different angle. I’m hooked.
SwimRun unlocks Truly inspiring, dramatic landscapes; new routes to forge, old limits to pass, a different way to play with the mountain environment. It’s the new edge of adventure; it’s living not existing. Where will your SwimRun journey start?
Chris "Onoda" Baynham-Hughes is an adventure junkie, peanut butter enthusiast and #Likeys Ambassador.
He is currently investigating the bio-hazard implications of his 'Paddle Buckley' route; a standing challenge inspired by the Paddy Buckley Round and the Frog Graham.