Greece (Hellas) is the birthplace of democracy, the marathon, the Olympic Games and many wonderful stories. It is fitting that the first and only swimrun in Hellas is hosted on the island of Hydra, steeped in Greek folklore.
Swimrun Hydra is a masterpiece of a course and just a few hours from Athens, held each year at the end of November. This adventurous route traverses the beautiful and varied island of Hydra in pleasant temperate waters of 18 – 20 degrees.
The Hydra was a serpent-like water monster with nine heads. Thankfully, Swimrun Hydra is run by a charming one-headed Race Director, Constantinos Mitropapas who swimrun.com had the pleasure to speak with.
Constantinos is a proud Greek, family man and oozed a cool and calming authority. He has been organising races since 2014 and swimruns since 2018 and is also an accomplished swimmer having represented the international team.
How did you first discover swimrun?
I attended the London Triathlon Show, and met Michael Lemmel (co-founder of ÖTILLÖ) who was speaking about swimrun. The founding story of swimrun intrigued me and I wanted to find everything about it. My home country of Greece seemed a natural place for swimrun, with both a stunning landscape and a relaxed and intrepid attitudes of my fellow Greeks.
You organised the first ever swimrun in Greece, how was it?
I was incredibly stressed. My brother and I organised this first race and the weather was atrocious with high winds and bad rainy weather. The port authority was asking us if the race would be able to go ahead. All the responsibility was on us. We took the decision to proceed and bear hugged all the finishers for being there and trusting us with their safety. It was a real baptism of fire.
Safety. It is something you talk about often. What can participants expect?
We have the highest level of event safety in Greece for this type of event. There are many qualified people in our safety team so athletes can feel at ease about being in this dynamic environment. We try and think of everything. As an example, sometimes jellyfish are present. Many organisers might warn their participants and provide antihistamine (allergy relief) if people are stung. We will actually provide jellyfish repellent spray. It is the small details which matter!
What is the atmosphere like at races?
In swimrun, we are all family and there to have a special and meaningful experience. We support each other, help each other and act as one. This is very different to the atmosphere at triathlon races which are overly competitive. As Race Director, it means an awful lot to me to be to provide these experiences to athletes and their families. The Greek swimrun community is several hundred strong, still small but growing and we hope to encourage more people to try swimrun from different sports such as trail running and also warmly welcome international visitors.
Hydra offers team entries only
With most races offering solo entries, Swimrun Hydra has stayed true to one of the founding principles of being a team (two people) only event. Constantinos muses on this by saying the team element really is a unique and extraordinary experience.
So what are the courses like?
An enormous smile erupts on Constantinos’s face. We offer three courses: 12.8km (swim 2km & run 10,8km), 23.4km (swim 3.65km & run 19.7km) and a monster at 38.7km (swim 4.8km & run 33.9km). But let me tell you about them…
The terrain is simply remarkable. You can see towering mountains, gorgeous beaches, rugged trails and pretty villages all in one breath. Everything about Hydra island is unique
Oh and it’s in winter! Still sunny (mostly) and with perfect seas to swim in. Our visitors from abroad will be surprised by this stunning destination in the European Winter.
And what do you think is challenging about the course?
Constantinos smile turns into a roaring laugh. The start of the marathon distance (38.7km) is all so easy, a gentle 5km run followed by a smaller 500m swim. It lulls you into a complete sense of false security then AHHHHH you have to climb a mountain!
From that point, you will have over 1400m of climbing and a course which is both technical and extremely enjoyable (one down-hill section is rope assisted) and swims on all sides of the islands. It is an epic that Odysseus would be proud of.
What advice do you have for a first-time swimrunner?
Everyone can do the 20km! Train a bit more in the discipline you are less familiar with, and train with you partner to go to one level up.We make it easy for runners for and also for swimmers. With a re-design of the course (85-88% of the course is trail running) and you can make the swimming, there are no really long swims. Please trust me you can do it!
What does the future hold?
I’m proud that Swimrun Hydra is the 2023 marathon distance final for MySwimrunChampionhships. I’d like to increase the participation year by year and have more participants from abroad to enhance the reputation of the race. I’d also like to develop a once-in-a-lifetime race in Athens, so stay tuned.
For now, every visitor to Swimrun Hydra will find a completely different beauty of the island. You will meet Hydra in winter and see a a transformed beauty of this island. You can find more about Swimrun Hydra by following this link.