What is “Swimrun” you ask? Great question! About a month ago Coach Karleen and I asked the same question.
From the Alberta Swim Run Website it’s defined in the following way:
“SWIMRUN is a multi-stage competition which involves participants running and swimming over a cross-country race course or loop-course that involves at least 2 transitions between the swim and run stages of the race.
What defines a SWIMRUN is that it is always carried out outdoors and in water where the goal is to go from a starting point to a finish point through a course with at least 2 swim and run sections. All the equipment that a participant starts with has to be carried all the way to the finish line…”
Some fun facts about the origin and history of swimrun can be found in the Otillo website. In the “about swimrun” section you learn that:
“Swimrun is (a) sport that was born from a drunken bet. In 2011 it got the name from Erika Rosenbaum, one of our ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship podium finishers. It is a team-sport based of two persons travelling through nature and time, completely dependent (on) each other.”
Why would anyone want to swim in their runners and run with their swim gear? Because it seems like just the right amount of crazy to be super fun! At least that was our opinion. 😜
Yesterday was race day and we’re pleased to report that our Swimrun experience was awesome.
Want to give it a go? Here are the steps we followed on our road to Swimrun:
Step 1: Find a teammate!
As noted above, Swimrun is a team based sport. An ideal teammate will have similar swimming and running ability as you. Why is this important? Because you will be tethered together for the entire race! Did I forget to mention that?!? It is a requirement that you and your teammate remain within 10 meters of each other for the entire race. Also, you want a teammate whose company you enjoy and one who you can communicate well with as the swim/run, run/swim transitions require some coordination. About a month ago I asked Karleen if she wanted to try out this sport with me and without hesitation she said, “sign me up”! Step 1, ✔︎
Step 2: Decide which swim tools you want to use and practice before race day!
This is an important step! Although we only met once to figure things out, this meeting was essential! We practiced swimming in our runners with our tether, using a pull buoy, without a pull buoy and with and without paddles. We were using old runners and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and went sockless. Mistake! Sure, water was draining out of our shoes, but it was being replaced with sand and lots of it! We plugged up the holes and both opted for socks and anti chafe product on our feet to prevent blisters and sand abrasion. Many people use paddles during Swimrun but we both felt it would be too hard on our shoulders and didn’t want to run with them or fiddle with securing them to our race belts.
During our practice session we used a cat leash (about 8ft long) with clips on either end and then shortened it to half that length when running. This worked very well during our brief test session but on race day, not so much. During our first swim leg (of 9) the tether was getting wrapped around my wrist when I was swimming behind Karleen. Then it started to get caught around my neck. We immediately stopped and unclipped for safety sake. (Note: at our race you did need to remain within 10m of your teammate but you were not required to be tethered).
Step 3: Know your course!
Unlike in triathlon, there is a navigational component to Swimrun. Our course was not marked with spray paint or flags to direct us. There were volunteers at road crossings for safety but the onus was on us to know where we were going. We were given a map in a large ziplock which I tucked into my top for the race.
We did the “full distance” which was 3.2k total swim and 9.6k total run. This was 3 laps of the course where each lap had 3 swim segments (purple on map) and 3 run segments (blue on map). The swim segments ranged from 270m to 430m and the run segments ranged from 68m to 2090m.
There was also a “try-a-swimrun” event that was 1 lap of the full distance course. The course included jumping (or diving) off of 1 dock and swimming through 1 culvert. This course was great!
Step 4: Have fun on race day!
We went into this event planning to have fun and we did. How can you not have fun when you see people running around with swim caps on their heads, paddles on their hands, and pull buoys strapped to their legs?
It was great sharing the experience with a friend and the Otillo comment above about “being completely dependant on your teammate” is so true. Being directionally challenged we laughed a lot when I shot off in the wrong direction despite having studied the map. Karleen realized quite early on that she needed to cue me at turns. But, at one point, we found ourselves completely disoriented. Luckily another team who came up behind pointed us in the right direction. Before the race began another participant told us 2 things about Swimrun: “Leave no one, AND no garbage, behind”. This rang true in our event and rings true in life as well. 😊
After a few technical issues on lap one, a navigational blip on lap 2 and some overall fatigue in lap 3 we pulled out a second place finish during our first Swimrun endeavour. We had a blast and will definitely be back next year.
If you have any questions about Swimrun, please contact us
Coach Mary & Coach Karleen