Melker Larsson is the Race Director for Immeln Swimun in the southern part of Sweden. Immeln Swimun is part of the My Swimrun Championship series and has industry leading eco-credentials. Melker first got involved as a 16 year old official and is now part of a father-son duo who run the event. The race really is a family affair…if you complete the long distance course, you’ll probably have met at least a dozen family members by the time you finish.
What makes a good swimrun course?
When it feels like the course is embedded in the natural environment rather than forced upon it, then it’s a good course. Of course you need a decent ratio between swimming and running but I think above everything else is how well the course flows. I like it when the swims feel like shortcuts! Personally, I favour courses with lots of single trail running through natural environments.
What are some of the highlights of the Immeln Swimrun course?
You’ll encounter lots of beautiful natural environments throughout the courses but for our long and middle distance one real highlight is traversing the lake by island-hopping. This is a unique experience that you’re only able to access through swimrun. The last checkpoint is also a gem. Each year a few local ladies make home baked goods that they bring out into the middle of the forest. I’ve been told that the urge to stop there has added some seconds or even minutes to some participants finishing times!
Lastly, the support and cheering from all our officials along the courses is something that sticks out when I speak to participants. It’s hard to describe why it’s special, I guess it just has to be experienced.
How did the 2023 edition go?
Really well! We were really very pleased with the feedback from the participants about their experiences and I’m also glad regarding of how some new developments were received. The young swimrunners who did our new kids race had a great time, participants were onboard with using their own swim caps (which was one of our sustainability measures) and we raffled some free starts to other races which was much appreciated. No DNFs, no lasting injuries and overall a great atmosphere. 9 years in I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces at the race and it feels like a reunion.
Tell us about your partnerships with My Swimrun Championships?
Each year our race in Immeln will allow participant to collect ranking points for the championship and every once in a while, Immeln will be the championship. What I like most about MSC is that it honours different cultures and local expressions of swimrun while offering an availability for any type of swimrunner. I hope swimrunners see the different races as unique experiences that can allow them to see regions they otherwise wouldn’t have.
What are conditions normally like competitors?
We usually have between 18-21 degrees in the water and between 18-25 degrees in the air as we are swimming in a lake and it’s in August. If the sun is shining as it did this year, the hangout after the race also becomes a great experience of prime swedish summer.
What do you think the most challenging elements are of the Immeln Swimrun course?
There’s quite a bit of technical trail running. If you’re confident in your trailrunning you’ll be able to push fast but if you’re not, you might lose a lot of time. There are also some elevation which can shock you with lactic acid unless you’re careful.
Forests & Lakes, what is your top tip for training for Immeln?
I would train transitions in and out of the water at race pace. In some places you really need to place your feet right so you can’t just run in and out of the water fiddling with your gear. If you’re pushing time, you need to be able to put on your gear, in speed, while running through the forest and you need to be able stove it all away fast when climbing ashore.
What is the atmosphere like?
I believe our race has a really friendly, warm sense of community alongside the competitive element. The area is really rural and participants are staying in B&B cottages, on campsites or elsewhere close to the lake. At the arena, we serve both breakfast and a post-race dinner so that people can really socialize and enjoy just being there as well.
How important do you think sustainability is for swimrun events?
I think the vast majority of swimrunners have a strong love for nature and I think participants of swimrun races are very open to sustainable ideas unless they lessen the experience of the event. I hope we’re going to see more and more demands from participants on sustainability factors. There are many solutions for sustainability that just make sense from a lot of perspective while some are more challenging to the status quo. At Immeln Swimrun, we’re testing out new concepts that hopefully inspires participants to set new expectations on what participating in a race means.
Can you share some examples of some of your environmental initiatives?
Sure, overall we’re trying to live by the mantra “make memories not materials”:
- We reuse course markings
- We reuse racing bibs
- We expect participants to use their own swim caps (most have many)
- We have vegetarian food as the default option when registering. The food is also sources locally from responsible farmers.
- Our ATOBEE medal is supporting biodiversity and awareness of the issue.
- We gave the participants reusable cups to use throughout the race. They were allowed to keep them or return them after finishing. We hope that many return next year to use their cups at Immeln Swimrun 2024.
- We encouraged rides haring and created a car-pooling sheet
What would be your one top tip or piece of advice for a first-time swimrunner?
Find friends to do it with you. The swimrun community is amazing and having people around you makes it more fun and more likely that you’ll get out of your own comfort zone.
The Immeln Swimrun returns on the 17th August 2024.