What a way to see the Lake District!
What is SwimRun?
If you have never done one, swim across a lake, run over a mountain, swim across another lake, run over another mountain and repeat, whilst attached to your teammate. I’ll make this really simple, it is absolutely fan-bloody-tastic!
The History of SwimRun
In 2002 two teams challenged each other to run and swim 75km over 26 islands in the Stockholm archipelago.
The rules were simple: the last team had to drink and pay for the rounds at the bars lining the route.
From this beginning, the sport of swim run was born. Events take place on trail and in open water; teams race in pairs wearing a wetsuit and trainers, transitioning seamlessly between running stages and swimming stages.
About Breca SwimRun
Breca, I think it is fair to say, are the main event providers in the UK, when it comes to SwimRun, as well as hosting events in the Channel Islands and New Zealand. The effervescent Ben is the founder and there is a good chance you’ll meet him, he does the race brief, is there to set you off and to congratulate you at the finish! The man works hard, as does his superb team, and it is clear they absolutely love what they do and take pride in the results. And rightly so!
Breca is a character from the Old English epic poem Beowulf. In the poem, Breca and Beowulf are old friends who have to escape danger by swimming together for seven days and seven nights through an icy, windswept sea. Breca is the first home, but Beowulf decides he was the greater victory as he stopped to fight sea monster along the way. (Taken from their website)
I was chuffed to bits, and a tad worried when I was asked by Andy if I would like to team up with him for this event. He had done it before, had completed Ironman UK earlier that year and had been training to have a crack at qualifying to join the GB Triathlon team. He is a quality athlete with a really strong swim, an area for myself I would politely describe as “one that needs some serious time and focus”, or “shite” in normal language! Being the humble and reserved guy he is, he calmed my nerves, “don’t be so stupid, you’ll be fine!” Well, that was me sorted!
We trained together a few times, testing out the kit and learning to swim as a pair; you are tethered on a leash in the water, hence the reason I am touching Andy’s rear in the feature picture, honest! These practice times were invaluable on the day; as was the investment in a proper SwimRun wetsuit. If you have the budget or can borrow, do so. It will genuinely help you on the day, and allow you to fully soak in (excuse the pun!) a fantastic day.
There was a group from my local triathlon club that were taking part, and had booked a lovely cottage in the village of Grasmere, which is where the race finishes. Got to love sports people. I had not been able to book accommodation for uninteresting reasons and they offered me a bed for the weekend, which ended up including a magnificent huge bowl of spaghetti bolognese, wine and breakfast, perfect pre-race set up! Thanks, guys!
The briefing and registration were held in a local hall. The kit is checked for safety and to ensure all environmental concerns are addressed. Hopping in and out of lakes and lands which are national treasures requires massive organisation and negotiation. Ben and his team have a huge focus on ensuring their events do not negatively impact the stunning scenery they are set in, in any way! Everything feels very relaxed, there is no “elitism” and everyone chats and nervous laughs are heard everywhere. There are some obviously seriously good teams there and you do have to make the checkpoints within certain times, but the buzz is fantastic!
The next morning, in the early darkness, we all boarded the buses to the start line (don’t forget to book these!), a car park on the edge of Lake Coniston, mist laying across the still waters. I’ve stood on a few stunning start lines and this one has to be right up there! The atmosphere was electric! A number of us tested the water for temperature, a mistake! Standby, GO! 50m and straight into the lake.
The first swim is approx 700m then a short run to the next water entry back into Lake Coniston. This was cancelled as the safety boat in the middle could not see either shore due to the mist! So we ran on to the next water entry, making the first run of around 5 km. No complaints from me on that call, not only for safety, but I could not feel my fingers after the first swim!
The route from there in simple terms is:
- Swim approx 800m in Lake Coniston
- Run approx 4kms which includes Check Point 1
- Swim approx 600m in Lake Coniston
- Run approx 15 km which includes going up and over Tarn How’s via High Fell and Latterbarrow, and also which includes Check Points 2 & 3
- Swim approx 900m in Lake Windermere
- Run approx 3.5 km
- Swim approx 250m in Lake Windermere
- Run approx 1.5 km which includes Check Point 4
- Swim approx 700m in Lake Windermere
- Run approx 7 km which includes Check Point 5
- Swim approx 400m in Lake Rydal
- Run approx 2 km
- Swim approx 800m in Lake Grasmere
- Run approx 2 km to finish at Dale Lodge Hotel in Grasmere.
- Total advertised : Run: 38.7km | Swim: 6.5km
However, reading it off like this does nothing for what you will experience. Running with a mate, as a team, through this scenery, over mountains, along forest trails and tracks, swimming across iconic lakes, working together as you both go through different stages of tiredness at different times, is one of the best feelings.
Andy and I ran and swam really hard that day (we actually did really well overall in terms of times and position) but we laughed and smiled the whole way around. There was never a point that was not enjoyable, there was never a point where the views were anything less than magnificent. You will push yourself, don’t get me wrong, this is a seriously tough event! But it will be worth it!
I think back to the day now and actually, I have forgotten the cramp and the tired limbs and I think we put more effort into trying to get an “epic” water exit photo than anything else, the one thing we probably did not achieve! 🙂
So, as a review conclusion
The event feels massive yet the arenas are small, friendly and in no way, ostentatious. You feel you have completed something very special, massively challenging (and you have!) and that medals and swag bags are not important. Friendships solidified and the satisfaction of knowing minds and bodies have been tested. A simple but delicious soup and a hot drink wait, with a warmed tent to change in. Everyone waits around to see the competitors and completes across the finish line. Perfect!
Just sign up today and do it! You will not regret it!
Get The Details On
Breca ConistonUnique Event Review
- Event Website
- When Was The Event?
- 6th October 2018
- Was This A Qualification Race?
- Reviewed By
- Nick TK
- About The Reviewer
- The simple facts are... I am a half-educated grey man, raised in the 70’s with no fashion sense. I understand some of what is happening around me, loosely, and that which I don’t..
- What Age Group Was I In?
- Type Of Competitor
- Was This My First Time At This Event?
Explore four of the most beautiful and imposing of the English lakes: Coniston Water, Windermere, Rydal Water and Grasmere. The course follows tracks and paths along valleys and over passes in the midst of splendid and varied Lakeland scenery.
Run: 38.7km | Swim: 6.5km | Transitions: 18 | Total: 45km | Ascent: 1,050m
Estimated completion time: 5-9.5 hours
Terrain: trails, sections of technical running; steps; steep slopes
Swimming: rocky beach entries and exits
Difficulty: hard. You need a high level of fitness to complete this race.
- Value For Money
- The Pros
- Stunning location
- Great atmosphere and buzz
- Unique event
- Excellent organisation
- Perfect in terms of numbers and size
- The Cons
- Nothing I can think of .... but if I have to ....
- It is not cheap BUT IT IS value for money!
- The medal is a nice reminder but as good as the memories
- The arena is small so don't think this is a shopping trip
- None of the cons are cons in my eyes!
- Grasmere, Ambleside LA22 9PZ, UK
Booking The Event
- How far In Advance Did I Book?
- 3 months before
- What Discount Did I get?
- No Discount
- How Easy Was It To Book?
The Event Arena / Village
- Rate The Event Arena
No Event Arena%
- Rate The Buzz Around The Event Arena
- Rate The Food And Drink Stalls
The Event Facilities
- Rate The Parking
- Rate The Toilets
- Rate The Showers
- Was There A Bag Drop?
- Was There A Changing Tent?
- Rate The Medal
- Rate The Swag Bag
No Swag Bag%
- Rate The Marshalls
- Rate The Course Marking
- Rate The Course Buzz
- Was The Event Timed?
- Was There Water On The Course?
- Did I Need To Be Able To Swim?
- Where There Bouyancy Aids Available?
- What Was The Maximum Depth Of The Water?
- 2 Metres Plus
- Types Of Terrain On The Course?
- Water Crossing
- Natural Obstacles