Triathlon may be the one of fastest growing sports in the world, but for many it is the antithesis of adventure: flashy gear, £8,000 bikes and repetitive routes. Step forward swimrun, a new sporting event that ditches the tri-bars and asphalt roads in favour of a bit of off-road and open-water adventure.
That said, I personally have “competed” (ha! completed!) in both and they are both fantastic, but very different sports!
Unlike traditional aquathlons, which combine swimming and running in a two-stage race, swimrun involves multiple legs of each discipline. What’s more, you have to race self-sufficiently – you swim and run in the same gear and carry everything you need for the race from start to finish.
The idea behind swimrun started out as a drunken bet between two Swedes to swim and run across more than 20 islands in Stockholm’s archipelago. It has already got adventure sports fanatics excited with comments like “there is something quite wild and primal about the sport”.
As more and more people look to escape the manmade environment, activities such as swimrun – invariably set in picturesque surroundings – are reaping the benefit.
Although the origins of the event lie in long distances and sea swimming (“ö till ö” is Swedish for island to island), there are no set rules and shorter inland events are emerging to help broaden the sport’s appeal.
One aspect that seems unlikely to change is the inability to change clothes during the race. The early pioneers found the only way they could complete the tough Ötillö course in a single day was by not carrying – and changing between – swimming and running gear. Instead, participants tend to wear shorter, thinner wetsuits that leave their ankles, legs and arms free for running. The shoes are normally lightweight trail ones, with food and emergency gear carried in a waterproof bag attached to their bodies.
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The other big difference from triathlon races is that participants run in pairs, partly for safety as they race across open water and often mountainous trails, but also to bring a new element of camaraderie to sport.
All in all, it is a sport unlike any other. “When you look back at the map, it seems incredible where you’ve been without stopping and without any wheels or boats!” For me, it has left a lasting impression. “I used to look at a map and think about how I could run around a lake, now I can go across it. You don’t see obstacles any more, you just keep moving.”
Keep an eye on our events calendar as we add more and more exciting events for you to try!