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Thu 29th Sep 2022
© Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ Engadin
The ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 2016
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 2nd August 2016

Tags  Ben Martin  |  Engadin  |  OtillO  |  OTILLO Engadin Swimrun  |  Rhian Martin  |  Swimrun

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Taking on the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 2016

"The hardest race we've ever done (yep, harder than an Ironman)" 

As I'm sure you will have noticed, there has been a steady growth of late in the popularity of Swimrun races. We're not talking the established Aquathlon format here, but ultra-distance, cross-country, island-to-island racing (in pairs), taking in lots and lots of run/swim/run/swim changes, all while taking your equipment with you. Run in your wetsuit, swim in your shoes...

The original ÖTILLÖ Swimrun event in Sweden, the Swimrun World Championships, has now expanded into an ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Series (, and earlier this year we featured the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Isles of Scilly event, which was won by Richard Stannard and Andrew Fargus - RACE REPORT | RACE GALLERY.

The next race in the series was ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin in Switzerland, 'The Alpine Swimrun Race', and the British pairing on Rhian and Ben Martin - who will also be racing at the World Championships - raced there, and report back below on a great event and experience.

Some of the highlights and challenges we faced...

  • 53km - 5.8km swimming and 46.8km running
  • 5th mixed pair and 27th overall
  • Fastest GB mixed team and second fastest GB team (a male team was 15 minutes ahead of us)
  • 160 teams started only 120 finished
  • High altitude
  • Freezing cold waters 9-14 degrees
  • We ran/swam as a pair, no more than 10 meters from each other at all times
  • We had to carry everything you need from start to finish – running in your wetsuit and swimming in your trainers

Thank you for your support we are aiming to raise £5000 for The Hughes Sport Foundation and Scope via


The full report - ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 2016

Up at 0530 for porridge, coffee and energy drink, we got all our kit on and boarded the bus to the start line. Thunderstorms were promised and it was already getting hot at an altitude of 1,900 meters.

The start gun went at 0800 and the race was on, with 160 teams who made the start line (180 originally qualified). We immediately went straight up a mountain, single file, passing goats. After an hour’s climb, the 9° degree lake was looking very refreshing, so we duly dived in and began our first swim leg.

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 2016
Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ Engadin

Then for the next six and a half hours we swam and ran our way through nine separate run legs and eight lakes. The views were absolutely stunning – racing up and then back the valley, through forests, on and off trails. At many points the up hills were so steep all competitors were walking. We found there are two walking paces; slow, hands on knees, grimace or fast[er], with a determined look on one’s face. We chose the latter and were quickly gaining places.

We were happy with our kit choice – warm on the swims, though we needed to strip down the top half of the wetsuit for the runs, especially as the sun was out and was now approaching 27° degrees. With no wind and no chance of a refreshing thunderstorm.

Rhian Martin - ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 2016

At about three hours in, we dived in for the long 1.4km swim – and overtook many teams, so our endurance training was paying off. It was easy to tell who our mixed team competitors were, as we all had green hats and green race bibs. And the double benefit of being fast swimmers was evident when we got out of the water – as we could immediately start a fast running pace, over taking more racers.

After the second to last swim Ben’s left knee was showing considerable “wear and tear.” Despite Rhian’s encouragement, every step was very painful. With an 8km run, 400m swim and then a 3k run to the finish we were told we were fifth mixed couple – which was a massive boast to our energy levels. Fourth place were 12 minutes ahead of us, so we just had to consolidate our 5th position.

But, that was easier said than done. Half way through the 8km run, Ben’s knee didn’t want to go any further. A stop was required. Rhian provided some motivation quotes, ending with “I know it hurts Ben, but is it really worse than childbirth?” Ben’s reply was not noted (but he certainly had some dark thoughts).

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 2016
Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ Engadin

We pressed on and the finish line was in sight. As Ben had leaned on Rhian for the last 2km, he decided now was not the time to be photographed at the finish line in such a position, so he dug even deeper (what a hero) and we crossed the line, hand-in-hand at 7 hours 34 minutes.

Then straight to the medical tent.

It was such a great race – for so many reasons. The beautiful race setting, the friendly sprit amongst the racers and the actual toughness of the race itself. 13% of the teams dropped out mid race, with only 120 finishing. We were proud to come in 5th mixed pair and 27th overall. We were the fastest GB mixed team and second fastest GB team (a male team was 15 minutes ahead of us). On this placing, we would have qualified for the World Champions (though we have accepted a place already).

Of the four mixed teams that beat us, all of them had at least one previous ÖTILLÖ winner. Three of them were professional teams. And the whole event was won by a mixed team – showing the class in this category. In any other year we think we’d have been on the podium.

Onwards and upwards...

We are immensely proud of our achievement – and strangely glad that the journey doesn’t end here. It’s only five weeks (5th September) until we race in the archipelagos surrounding Stockholm – in a 75km race, which is going to take c.10-12 hours. It consists of 10km of swimming and then running over 26 different islands. So we need to learn a new “race craft” – to efficiently climb up and over rocks as we get in/out of the sea. It’s not at altitude, but the waves are going to prove interesting. We think this could be more suited to our strengths – but hey, only time will tell.

Follow us at @BenRhianOtillo and if you haven’t already, please do try and sponsor us at

And a final request... we are looking for a corporate race sponsor, given we’re self funded all the costs of this. If anybody knows of a firm looking for some publicity, then please do put us in contact. We are the top team in GB, fifth in Europe in an event that is gathering a huge amount of media interest.

Ben and Rhian Martin

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