An introduction to SwimRun


This relatively new sport is truly unique, highly enjoyable and attractive for those who love both sports and want to exercise and compete in magnificent settings, running off-road and swimming in lakes, seas or other bodies of water.

Unlike triathlon and other competitive endurance sports, this is all about working together, in a partnership, in pairs to be precise. And unlike aquathlons, this event involves a series of swims and runs, most finishing miles from the start point, whereby you remain in your wetsuit when you run and keep your shoes on when you swim.

The kit is also unusual in that you are allowed aids. SwimRunners have a curious look; they may use pull-buoys, large paddles, and even fins. The wetsuit is also modified with cut down arms and legs to avoid overheating, and some come with zips at the front. The one rule is that you must finish with all the kit you started with and always stay by your partner’s side, especially in open water. You are only as strong and fast as your partner, so helping and encouraging each other is a must. There’s no room for frustration or impatience, as this will only slow down your buddy and ultimately backfire. You must cross the line together, ideally with your friendship intact, and better still, stronger and with a medal to show for your joint accomplishment.

Being closely matched in both disciplines makes for the dream team. Ideally one is slightly better at swimming, while the other is a stronger runner. This ensures that you get the best out of each other and excel in your weaker sport over the weeks or months that you train together.

Even though there are no ‘transitions’ as such, it is essential to prepare correctly for getting back into the water, making sure the pull buoy is rotated back in between the legs, goggles are on, hands are firmly strapped into paddles, and that the wetsuit is zipped back up. If you’ve forgotten to do any one of these things, you’ll soon find out.

The distances vary; sprint distances are perfect as an introduction for newbies and better suited to those less confident in open water. There are no ‘cut-off’ times with these races and often the route follows the last section of a longer SwimRun event, scheduled the day after. The longer distances will satisfy the appetites of athletes wanting to spend most of the day swimming and running, whilst enjoying the stunning scenery which is synonymous with these events; the course is cleverly designed and tested by the Ö till Ö (meaning island to island) race organisers, an itinerary that few would get the privilege to access otherwise.

Some events have a total of 10k swimming, with 2k being the longest, and up to 50k in total of running, with the longest run section getting up to 13 miles!

Surely this sport will entice folks who love being outdoors, love running and swimming, and who get to share these delights and pleasures in the company of a good friend, spouse, relative, or fellow sports person.

Go on, have a go!

By Patricia Richardson