©Swimrun1|Swimrun Côte Vermeille

Swimrun: 12.8 km of challenge between mountains and Vermeille

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Saturday 19 June, 9.29 am… we are a few seconds away from the whistle for the start of the “short” Swimrun. Green caps on the head, bibs of the same colour. The adrenaline starts to flow among the competitors. The race leader announces the start and starts the countdown, the public joins in… 5… 4 … 3 … 2 … 1…

Swimrun is a competition that originated in Sweden in 2006 under the name Ötillö (island to island). It connects islands off the coast of Stockholm and the race is run in pairs. There, at a few latitudes of the Arctic Circle, the route is 75km long, including 10km of swimming in the sea. The water temperature is around 15°C and the winds blow the participants around.

Back home

The Côte Vermeille Swimrun offers a completely different setting. The “Ultra” race, 63.3km / D+2.5km, crosses the natural marine site of the Gulf of Lions, 6 Natura 2000 sites, a natural marine reserve, a marine educational area, listed and historic sites.

The “short” one, on the other hand, allows us to discover 2 communes on the waterfront, over 13km, including 2km of swimming.

The day before the start, my team mate and I go to the Charles Trenet esplanade in Argelès-sur-Mer, where the race will end. We meet the volunteers, all smiles, who hand us our competition bag. Inside, 2 green hats, 2 race numbers, 2 official race T-shirts, 2 labels for the storage of our personal belongings, and a connected bracelet for tracking throughout the race.

This is the big day !

Then the day arrived, we were on the morning of the start, on the beach of the batteries in Collioure, 20 minutes before the kick-off. We take the opportunity to take some pictures because the race already offers us a nice panorama on the cliffs while the bell tower of Collioure is in the distance. Electro music motivates us, the host announces the weather conditions and reminds us of the race instructions.

The participants are starting to come in. People around us have come to encourage us. The concentration is at its peak. A final check of our equipment:
Cap: OK
Wetsuit: OK
Whistle: OK
Bib: OK
Trail shoes: OK
Hand pads : OK
Swimming goggles : OK
Lanyard: OK

The athletes warm up, stretch, take the temperature of the water.
The starting line is unrolled, smoke bombs start to burn. The countdown is launched…

Time for the big bath

We all set off, like warriors on a battlefield, ready to throw ourselves into the water.  In our sights, a big yellow buoy, which we will have to reach and turn left to reach Collioure. But before that: 800m of swimming in the sea. The scene is spectacular: 240 people in the water swimming in the same direction. They shout, they motivate each other, but underwater everything is inaudible.

My partner and I try not to lose sight of each other. With glasses and green hats, everyone looks the same. We crawl forward, one arm, then the other. The beat of our feet in the water beats in unison.  We don’t lose our direction. We inhale, then exhale underwater. One arm. Then the other. We can see the rescue workers following us, ready to intervene if necessary.

We arrive at the entrance to the beach of La Balette. After 800m of swimming, our mouths are parched with salt. But this is not the time to let go. The next step is to reach the Fort Saint Elme, which culminates at 170m of altitude and where a first provisioning awaits us.

Before climbing, a volunteer invites us to scan our bracelet on a terminal. We start the climb. The stage is done through the olive trees of the Cortina mill. We see in our sights the imposing Fort Saint Elme, whose cylindrical and star-shaped forms remind us of the Vauban style.
Here we are at the top. A marquee awaits us. Fruit, water and juice have been prepared by the volunteers. They encourage us one last time.

The descent to the jewel of the Côte Vermeille is made in an exceptional panorama.
In front of the citadel of Collioure, the steep path at the top of the cliffs of the coastal path, the small hamlet of Racou, and finally the arrival in Argelès-mer, about ten kilometres away.
Arriving at the Faubourg beach, we walk along the royal castle of Collioure. It is a fortress of more than 30 m which stands beside us.
The second launch is just as wonderful, as we swim just a few metres from the famous bell tower. At the finish, we are at the second refreshment point, which reboosts us for the rest of the trip.

We leave the Fauvist streets and gradually enter the coastal path, an essential site if you are in Argelès.

With the small fort Rodon on our right, we branch off in the direction of the Ouille beach. A third, short but refreshing swim takes place inside the cove. The run resumes at the mouth of the Ravanet, a river that we follow for half a kilometre before heading towards the terraced vineyards, a little further up.

Arrival in Argelès-sur-Mer

The race finally arrives in Argelès. We go along the campsite to the Criques de Porteils. At the bottom of the cliffs, we throw ourselves into the water for a distance of 600m. We can’t resist admiring the underwater biodiversity and the posidonia. For a moment, we have the impression of flying.
We arrived at Le Racou, where a refreshment station was waiting for us. The organisation encourages us one last time and congratulates us for the distance we have covered. This is the last break before the finish!

Let’s not give up

We head north. We run past the picturesque houses of Racou, which, like us, have their feet in the sand. People who have come to enjoy the beach applaud the participants.
After a short passage through the technical area, the buildings of the port appear before us. The route goes along the quays. It is around midday. Many holidaymakers are sitting on the terraces of the restaurants. The smell of the kitchens reaches us, but this is not the time to let ourselves be distracted. We are only one kilometre from the finish.
After crossing the Massane via the small footbridge, the Marenda Festival exhibition transports us to the Taiga, where the weather conditions there are reminiscent of the original Swimrun.
After this short escape, the sand already at our feet: the last swim. The swell has risen. But it takes more than that to discourage us. We go for it. Only 300 m more of tumult and the finish is ours.

The final stretch!

We are struggling to move forward, we are going against the tide. But the gesture is well practiced. One arm, then the other. We reach the only buoy and turn right towards the finish. The waves carry us straight to the shore. On the sand, we start to hear the music of the sports village, the announcer who sees us and the public who cheers us in the rhythm of the beating of our feet in the water.
We finish the last 100m of the race, the finishing arch is below our heads, while Sylvain & Olivier, the organisers congratulate each participant.
12.8 km of challenge between mountains and wonders.

We wanted to thank the whole organising team of the 6ᵉ edition of the Swimrun, as well as all the volunteers and lifeguards, present throughout the race.