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Backwaterman SwimRun: The Jewel In The Crown Of Central Europe

Backwaterman SwimRun is Austria’s first swimrun race. Set along the shorelines of connected fjords (sunken valleys) and under a towering Austrian castle, it is fast becoming a ‘must-do’ swimrun race for any swimrunner. Swimrun.com sat down with Backwaterman organiser and sports enthusiast, Andreas Sachs.

Andreas first discovered swimrun through reading articles about the ÖTILLÖ race. A friend of his, Stefan Sponer introduced him to organising swimrun races and together they set about establishing Austria’s first race which was an instant classic. 

Andreas has a sharp analytical mind and became increasingly animated the longer our conversation went on, he was bursting with energy when describing what goes into making a swimrun course, and it is clear that he is somewhat of an innovator.

Backwaterman is known as the ‘special one’, what is so special about it?

The scenery. It is an intoxicating place where small fjords flow into one another, and at 600 meters high it never gets really hot here although the water temperature warms up nicely in this rocky environment. The race goes through a 13th century castle, can you imagine that? Swimrunners standing where knights once would have defended high ramparts. Andreas pauses. And of course the fabled Austrian hospitality! All these components make for an intriguing experience which is why Backwaterman is the ‘special one’.

What makes a good swimrun course?

First, a swimrun must satisfy the technical components of a swimrun. That is to say have the right balance of swimming and running. For Backwaterman, that is around 15% swimming and 85% running. But do not be deceived. Many of the swims will really test you. Swimming against current is slow and arduous work which will tire event the strongest swimmers.

The second part of a great swimrun course is to offer athletes a variety of different experiences. This includes plenty of far ranging panoramic views, the right amount of hilly climbs and challenging rocky transitions. Of course there are many enjoyable running sections on the course and a real diversity of swims, some with current and some without current.

Are you a perfectionist?

Andreas grins. Only 80-90% perfect, you should ask my wife! On race day, there are lots of behind the scenes problems to solve, which athletes just won’t be aware of. There is a lot more that goes into these races than meets the eye. So yes, we are perhaps more perfect than athletes perceive.

How would you describe the atmosphere at races?

Swimrun in general is not like triathlon, and people who do swimrun tend to be much more chilled out. I think this is to do with experience over performance.

As Race Director, I look after course safety and organisation and although I’d love to spend more time chatting with athletes, sadly there are always jobs to do. When a course marker has gone missing, I have to react quickly to unforeseen problems which occur.

Backwaterman is known to have a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I see our role as facilitators to help the social side of things, so people can talk to each other. After all, it is a nice community to be a part of.

What are your plans for the future?

Work in the morning, swimrun and golf in the afternoon. Andreas clearly has a good work-life balance but also a sharp and ambitious mind. He is keen to help shape the future of swimrun and have Backwaterman as a firm favourite on the swimrun calendar.

What would your one piece of advice be to someone who is new to swimrun?

The easiest thing is to talk to someone who is doing swimrun! If you don’t know anyone, find a swimrunner online. It is a supportive and friendly community who all want to help new people get into the sport. Just try it. Most people can run and most people can swim. And that really is all you need to become a swimrunner! A sense of humour also helps.

Backwaterman returns on July 2023

Backwaterman returns on the 8th and 9th of July 2023. Hosting four different distances: a 10km trial, 15km Sprint, 24km half marathon and a tough 34km. You can enter and find more about the races here.

Fred Newton

Fred is the Editor and co-founder of swimrun.com. He has actively been involved with the sport of swimrun as an enthusiastic participant, race director, volunteer and journalist.

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