Few Swimrunners do not know who Mats Schott and Michael Lemmel are.
They have been the pioneers of the Scandinavian endurance sport scene since the early 90s, where they competed for the first time in Ski- Alpinisme, then created the Swedish cup in Ski- Alpinisme before becoming the first Adventure Racing team in Scandinavia . For 13 years they have been part of the best teams in the world, participating in more than 70 races around the world.
In 2006 Michael and Mats took Anders Malm and Utö Värdshus' crazy idea to run and swim across the islands and turn it into today's immense and intense race. Thanks to their vast and profound experience of always moving the limit beyond, they immediately understood that the "thing" would work. Michael and Mats are the founders of Swimrun. Understanding the soul of endurance sports and their extensive knowledge of event management made today's ÖTILLÖ experience.
I am fortunate to have known them personally since I started doing Swimrun (Engadina 2014), with many races on their circuit, every time we meet or hear each other, it is a party.
Today we have a talk with Mats
I usually start my interviews asking : how did you happen to know Swimrun? But I think I'll skip to the next question with you
In brief, what made you choose Swimrun, what was the spark which started this passion?
“To me Swimrun was a new and very natural way to move in nature, which makes me feel one with nature.“
I always say that Swimrun is pure freedom. While with the other sports you have to stop at some point, with Swimrun you can go beyond limits, a lake, a river, the sea do not separate but bring us all together, you break down geographical and mental boundaries, don't you think?
In 2006, have you ever thought that ÖtillÖ would have become like that todays?
“No, not at all but I am so glad that people around the globe love to move in nature this way.”
Each year a new race, from Engadine to Cataline, and after Cataline?
“Well now it is a very special year but the goal is to get more people on each race we organize.”
How do you spend your time when you are not in a ÖtillÖ race field?
“I live in the north of Sweden in the mountains, so it is a lot of skiing and running in the montains on my free time and of course spending time with my kids.”
Who is the Swimrunner?
“My goal to develop the sport is to inspire all people independent of age and size to get out and explore nature and move like a swimrunner.”
What would you say to an athlete who has no clue what swimrun is, to persuade him to try?
“This sport is the most fantastic sport to explore nature and it feels like you are one with nature. As long as you can swim and you can walk you can do Swimrun. Another aspect is to do it with a friend and share the experience. Go out and explore your neighbourhood and try it out.”
What do you feel at the start line of the races you organise, when you give the starting signal?
“I feel a relief when the racers are off and it is like a reward of all the preparation you have done to come to this moment.”
Did you realise of the worldwide development and participation to your races? It's all your fault!
“Every now and then I think about it and I feel very proud to have started a new sport and how unreal it is.”
We've met in 2014 at Engadina, right? Since that, at least one Otillo race per year is planned with other Italian friends and members of the team. How do you consider the Italian swimrunners?
“As friends and you always come with big smiles and energy.”
For me, for us, you and Michael are sources of inspiration. Athletes’ smiles represent our motivation to go further, to overcome our limits. What motivates you guys?
“The biggest motivation for me is to put on great races. My focus when organizing and doing the courses is always to make it a very nice experience for the participants. I am also very motivated to always try and improve everything.”
Next year is our fifth anniversary, will we see you at the starting line?
“This year has become a very special year but I hope that I one day will be able to come.”
Do you have some good, funny stories of your last 15 years that you can tell me?
“To me it is the first year we organized the ÖTILLÖ when the 11 teams that came to the start line had all different kind of equipment and no one really knew what is was all about.
For example the winning team used inflatable mattresses and it really looked funny. Another team was carrying a water proof bag so when they came to swim they took off their shoes and socks and put them in the bag. When finishing the swim they dried their feet put on the socks and shoes. Every transition between swimming and running took about 5 minutes at least. The ÖTILLÖ race have 23 swims so if you add up the time you would be sitting almost 4 hours…… Of course they did not reach the finish line.”