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Swimrun, a sport that started in Sweden in 2002, is a grueling multi-leg endurance event combining running and swimming over a course without stopping in between. The original concept of swimrun was to always race in pairs, which adds an elements of communication, teamwork and finesse since you are tethered together and have to navigate the course in unison.
For Sweden’s Terese Steraas and France’s Marine Beaury, add the variable of a language barrier. Steraas speaks English, Norwegian, and Swedish, while Beaury speaks only French.
Swimrun brought together this dynamic and powerful duo last year at a race in Gothenburg, Sweden. While they were competing with different partners that day, their coaches introduced them and they immediately had a connection. Knowing that there was no way for them to verbally communicate in competition, they still wrote to each other and their friendship blossomed. A few months later, they traveled to compete together for the first time at the World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.
“I think because we both were mentally prepared to not be able to speak to each other, there weren’t any questions before the race,” Steraas said. “We just decided before the race we would just not try to speak. If one doesn’t understand, there are too many questions and you don’t have time during competition.”
The World Championships, on September 5, 2021, turned out to be a very challenging day for the pair. ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship is the mother of all swimruns and the origin of the sport. This legendary course is 75 km long over and between 24 islands with 65 km of trail running and 10 km of open- water swimming.
Beaury struggled immensely that day becoming hypothermic after only three hours of competing (in a day that took 11 hours to finish). Thankfully, their strong bond and similar mindset helped them persevere and they got to the finish.
“We spoke to each other with the body language,” Steraas said. “I could see her pain and feel it, but it was like someone else told me that I was just going to do this for us. That this is something big in your life and you are going to make it to the goal together. When you know you can’t use words, you just have to make yourself understood. It was a very new experience.”
In June this year, after a winter of training apart but staying in touch, Beaury invited Steraas to compete with her at the Swimrun World Championship event in France.
“We kind of missed each other and felt something really strong,” Steraas said. “Marine said ‘I want to show you we can be a really good team together,’ and I knew there was going to be a strong Swedish team there, so we decided to go for first place.”
The race started off strong for the pair, and they led through the first four hours of competition. But then things took a turn for the worse. Slowly, Beaury started to lose steam, and just before one of the long swim portions, Beaury fell to the ground. When the medical staff arrived and loaded Beaury onto the boat, a doctor turned to Steraas and translated for her. “She wants you to finish.”
“I was crying, she was crying, and she had so much pain,” Steraas said. “Marine wanted me to do the race and I could feel that, so I decided just to do it. I had 7 hours left and I was crying in the swim and crying in the run. She gave me all her strength again.”
While Steraas finished the race that day in France, with seven of the eleven hours being solo, Beaury was rushed to the emergency room with a ruptured cyst.
Despite two back-to-back challenging race experiences, Beaury and Steraas plan to compete again together in the future. Their strong bond and love for the sport is driving them, and their belief that third time will be the charm.
“When you do these kind of competitions and you are so tired and you have so much pain, but you don’t want to quit because something is telling you that you have to achieve the goal,” Steraas said. “I can’t explain why – you look at each other in the eyes, and you’ve just been through so much together.”