Folkhälsan Swimrun Grows Year by Year - Folkhälsan

04 October 2019

Folkhälsan Swimrun Grows Year by Year

Folkhälsan Swimrun was organised on Saturday 21 September in Solvalla, Espoo. “This was the sixth year in a row of organizing the Swimrun event in Solvalla, and the number of participants has grown every year”, says Mats Almqvist, the race director of Folkhälsan Swimrun.

Results 2019

Picture top right: Winners of the Ötillö Merit Race, Ville Mäkelä and Jaakko Mäkelä, IF Solvalla Vargarna. Photograph: Tero Koski
– The time of the winning pair (of the ÖtillÖ Merit Race, picture on top), 4:34, was almost absurdly fast, says Mats Almqvist.

– It is not just about the growth of the number of participants. Also more and more cooperation partners are contacting us and want to be involved in one way of another. Folkhälsan Swimrun has hit a watershed and is truly becoming a major event, Almqvist notes.

Feedback from participants has druing earlier years always been very positive.
– This year feedback was incredibly positive, Almqvist says.

Most of the Folkhälsan Swimrun participants are people who exercise to keep fit and have discovered the sport through various channels. On the other hand, almost all of the top teams have a background in competitive triathlon or swimming.
– This year there were a lot of open water swimmers among the participants.

Intensive work before the race day

Heikki Kiili, who works as a teacher at Solvalla, participated extensively in organizing the swimrun event. Kiili designed the race course and was also in charge of the open training sessions during the summer.

– During the summer we had five open training events, to gain visibility for Folkhälsan Swimrun and to attract new people to take up the sport, Kiili says.

– The first few years, preparing the race course was a huge undertaking. It took more than 700 kilometers of running and swimming in the Nuuksio woods before the course was ready. Nowadays we mainly need to fine-tune the course, fortunately.

During the days preceding the race the atmosphere gets more intense. Materials are serviced and prepared. Among other things, we make 3,000 poles that are used to mark the course in the woods.

– The poles will be re-used, though. Food needs to be prepared for the aid stations, and each station must also be prepared to offer first aid. We also go through all of the tasks with the race officials and make sure that everyone knows what their task is.

Preparing the materials takes two days. Then we spend three days to mark the race course using poles, tape, buoys, ropes etc.

– As the years have passed, the preparation has become easier. Existing routines and processes help an awful lot, says Kiili.

Diverse experience for the students

According to Mats Almqvist, the young people who study at Solvalla are an invaluable help. They assist before the event and work as race officials during the race.

– This is about something much greater than a mere commercial event. The students get to see and experience organizing this type of event from the inside. Their contribution is irreplaceable, Almqvist emphasizes.

Solvalla vice-principal Stefan Backman agrees:
– From an educational point or view, this is a really significant event. We do everything by ourselves, from start to finish. The students perform tasks and have a role as part of the event organization to make it happen. They are not just race officials, as is usually the case in such events. This is an experience that actually teaches you to organize sports events.

Stefan Backman emphasizes the importance of cooperation with other organizers and of networking as a part of the whole. The students perform various tasks from the preparation stages to the race day arrangements.

– They get excellent training for when later on in their studies they are required to organize a sports event independently, without outside help.

A new route for beginners

This year also introduced a new race option: Super Sprint. Super Sprint is a significantly shorter race distance intended for those who wish to try swimrun for the first time.

– Judging by the feedback we received, Super Sprint was too short. The participants felt that they didn’t really have time to get going. We must consider our options for next autumn.

Because of the race date, Folkhälsan Swimrun competed with a number of similar events. There were events in Germany, in Sweden, and also in Espoo, where the Rantamaraton marathon running event took place.

– We have marketed our event mainly with social media updates, for example on Instagram and Facebook. Paid advertising has been quite minimal, Almqvist says.

Twelve participants from Britain

Twelve participants, or six teams, came to Nuuksio from Britain. All of the Britons were members of the same triathlon club. One participant was from Australia. The total number of registered teams was 128, and of these 115–118 showed up on the starting line.

Christina and Bill Lankford from Britain first participated in the Folkhälsan Swimrun in 2018. This year they decided to invite some of their friends along to experience a Nordic swimrun event. (Bill and Christina in the picture below).

Christina and Bill brought 6 teams from Cambridge Triathlon club, for some it was their first swimrun, and others the furthest they have raced.

– The event fulfilled all our expectations thanks to the very friendly organisation and brilliant course design and marking.

– Thanks to Mats Almqvist for the help in sorting accommodation and logistics, to Heikki Kiili for the course, and to the students for marshalling. We wish you every success and look forward to the time we return to Finland.

For many of the Britons, this was also their first experience of a proper Finnish sauna.
– We had great fun on Saturday night in the sauna, jumping into the lake to cool off, Bill Lankford concludes. (Photo of the british group below).

A sponsor praises the sense of communality

Nina Simojoki is Marketing Director for Cutrin company, one of the sponsors of Folkhälsan Swimrun. This was the second year she participated in the Sprint distance race.

– The atmosphere was warm and nice. Everything went smoothly both during the race and after. Communications were first rate, and the organisers have their finger on the pulse of the swimrun community on social media as well.

For Simojoki, the most important motivating factor is the joy of physical exercise. Both times she has participated, Solvalla has offered fantastic experiences.

– The volunteers along the race course had a glint in their eye, and the course itself was varied and beautiful. The after-race services, which included lunch and sauna, were also excellent. Extra points for the warm soup that was served during the race, Simojoki enthuses.

This year the water in the lakes was icy cold, and Simojoki mentions that she wondered whether there is room for improvement in the safety of the swimming sections.

– My own race went as expected. A bit better than last year, but as expected I found myself at the bottom end of the results list, because health reasons limited my training. For the next year, I have set my aims at the Endurance Race, at least.

Looking forward to the next year

The hug that every contestant gets at the finish is a good indicator of the warm atmosphere and well-thought-out concept of the event, Simojoki says.

– You leave for home in good spirits. As a sponsor, it is great to be able to support an event that represents the diverse Nordic nature, just like our brand Cutrin does. We are delighted that he organisers thought to ask us to be part of the event and are looking forward to supporting the event and delighting the participants next year as well.

Mats Almqvist tells that the cold waters were taken into consideration when fine-tuning the race courses.

– Some of the swimming sections were shortened because of the cold. We also lengthened some of the running sections to give participants an opportunity to warm up their bodies. We also informed the participants about this in the briefings before each start. Safety can always be improved and we are happy to hear the feedback and ideas from the participants.

List of results

More photographs by Janne Räsänen (Start and Vääräjärvi) (Kolmoislammit).
And Tero Koski at flickr.

More information about Folkhälsan Swimrun.

Many thanks to the Folkhälsan Swimrun partners and sponsors: Team Laine, Nuuksio Bikepark, Garmin, NVIII, Keradur Siivous, Cutrin, Nocco, Salomon Soft-Cup