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Swimrun: 12.8 km of challenge between mountains and Vermeille in Argelès-sur-Mer

Saturday June 19, 9:29am… we’re just seconds away from the whistle for the start of the “short” Swimrun race. Green caps on their heads, bibs of the same color. The adrenalin is pumping in the competitors. The race organizer announces the start and begins the countdown, with the public joining in… 5… 4 … 3 … 2 … 1…

 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 Lion, 6 Natura 2000 sites, a marine nature reserve, a marine educational area, listed and historic sites.

The “short” route, on the other hand, takes us through 2 towns on the water’s edge, over 13km, including 2km of swimming.

The day before the start, my team-mate and I head for the esplanade Charles Trenet in Argelès-sur-Mer, where the race ends. 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 our personal belongings, and a connected bracelet for race tracking.

 It's the big day!

Then came D-Day, the morning of the start, on the Plage des Batteries in Collioure, 20 minutes before kick-off. We took the opportunity to take a few photos, as the race was already offering us a lovely panorama of the cliffs, while the Collioure bell tower loomed in the distance. Electro music motivates us, the host announces the weather conditions and reminds us of the race instructions.

Participants begin to pour in. People around us are cheering us on. Concentration is at an all-time high. A final check of our equipment:
Beanie: OK
Wetsuit: OK
Whistle : OK
Race number : OK
Trail shoes : OK
Hand pads : OK
Swimming goggles : OK
Lanyard: OK

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

Here we go, like warriors on a battlefield, ready to throw ourselves into the water. In our sights, a big yellow buoy, which we’ll 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 and motivate each other, but underwater everything is inaudible.

My partner and I try not to lose sight of each other. Wearing glasses and green hats, we all look alike. We crawl forward, one arm, then the other. The beat of our feet in the water beats in unison. We stay on course. We inhale, then exhale underwater. One arm. Then the other. We can make out the rescuers following us, ready to intervene if need be.

We arrive at the entrance to Balette beach. After 800m of swimming, our mouths are parched with salt. But this is no time to relax. The next step is to reach Fort Saint Elme, 170m above sea level, where the first refreshments await us.

Before climbing up, a volunteer invites us to scan our bracelet on a terminal. We begin our ascent. The climb takes us through the olive groves of the Moulin de la Cortina. The imposing Fort Saint Elme comes into view, its cylindrical and star-shaped forms reminiscent of the Vauban style.
Here we are at the summit. A barnum awaits us. Fruit, water and juice have been prepared by the volunteers. The volunteers cheer us on one last time.

The descent to the jewel of the Côte Vermeille takes place against an exceptional panorama.
In front of the Collioure citadel, the steep cliff-top path of the sentier du littoral, the little hamlet of Le Racou, and finally the arrival at Argelès-mer, some ten kilometers away.
Arriving at the Plage du Faubourg, we walk along the Château Royal de Collioure. It’s a 30-metre-high fortress standing beside us.
The second launch was just as marvellous, as we swam just a few metres from the famous bell tower. At the finish, we reach the second refreshment point, which reboosts us for the rest of the race.

We leave the Fauvist lanes and gradually enter the coastal path, a must-see if you’re in Argelès.

With Fort Rodon on our right, we branch off in the direction of Plage de l’Ouille. A third, short but refreshing swim takes place inside the cove. The run resumes at the mouth of the Ravanet, a river we follow for half a kilometer before heading for the terraced vineyards a little further up.

 Arrival at Argelès-sur-Mer

The race finally arrives in Argelès. We skirt the campsite and descend to the Criques de Porteils. At the bottom of the cliffs, we throw ourselves into the water over a distance of 600m. We can’t resist admiring the underwater biodiversity and posidonia. For a moment, we feel as if we’re flying.
We arrive at Le Racou, where a refreshment station awaits us. The organizers cheer us on one last time and congratulate us on our journey. It’s 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. The beachgoers applaud the participants.
After a short passage through the technical area, the harbour buildings take shape before us. The route takes us along the quays. It’s around midday. Many holidaymakers are sitting on restaurant terraces. The smell of cooking is reaching us, but this is no time to be distracted. We’re only one kilometer 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 those at the original Swimrun.
After this short escape, the sand is already at our feet: the last swim. The swell has picked up. 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 home stretch!

We’re struggling to make headway, going against the tide. But the gesture is well practiced. One arm, then the other. We reach the only buoy and fork straight for the finish. The waves carry us right onto the shore. On the sand, we start to hear the music from the sports village, the announcer spotting us and the crowd cheering us on to the beat of our feet in the water.
We finish the last 100 m of the race, the finish arch is below our heads, while Sylvain & Olivier, the organizers congratulate each participant.
A 12.8 km challenge between mountains and wonders.

We’d like to thank the entire Swimrun organizing team, as well as all the volunteers and lifeguards present throughout the race.

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