Swimrun in a Nutshell
From origin Swimrun is an extreme endurance sport coming from an adventure racing background but since then the sport has evolved into different directions not necessarily in a competitive environment. Group (exploration) swimrun, orienteering swimrun or simply combining naure photography with swimrun are a few initiatives that have become popular over the last few years. In a competitive (race) event you practice the sport in a team of two (even though there are nowadays also solo races). There are three categories: Men, Women and Mixed. The equipment is the same for all categories. So far there are no age categories and official distances for swimrun courses making every course a unique experience. You can find short and easy courses for beginners all the way up to long and tough courses for experienced swimrunners. Fact is that there is an event out there for everybody (tough or easy). Check out the Finnish Events Calendar for more details. So how does it work? Well, all categories start at the same time and the idea is to alternate between swimming and running following a marked course until you both reach the finish line.
All equipment you start with must cross the finish line. Nowadays, some race organizers have put restrictions on equipment size (i.e. pull buoy and flippers). Other that then the sport has only a few rules. Besides some mandatory equipment (we come back to this later) you cannot be more than 10 meters apart during the race. The marked course can cross sections of land / islands, sea and / or lakes. Single day event course distances can range anywhere between 10 km (called sprint) to over 45 km’s (called long). Run sections can range anywhere between 10 meters to 21 km’s and swim sections can range anywhere between 10 meters to 4 km’s. Today, there are well over 400 swimrun races around the world covering all seasons and continents.
The ÖtillÖ swimrun world championships (Sweden) is arguably the most famous one. There are also a few multistage swimrun events that last longer than one day (e.g. SAUC). Since you are moving through delicate nature trashing along the course is absolutely forbidden and for your own safety no (head first) diving into the water is permitted. At all times you must wear a swimrun wetsuit that is suitable for water temperatures ranging between 10 – 15 deg Celcius. The organisation will provide you with the following gear: swimcap, race vest, timing chip and course map. The other mandatory equipment you must wear are a watertight packed band aid, two whistles to attract attention (i.e. one each), compass or watch with GPS. Besides a wetsuit you should wear proper trail running shoes that are quick draining and provide good grip in varied terrain (i.e. rocks, gravel, mud). Recommended but not mandatory are the use of: swim goggles, hand paddles, swim gloves, neoprene hat, pull buoy other floatation devices such as a tow rope. Along the course there will be aid stations where you can drink and take a snack. For most races you need to bring your own energy gells or chews which you store inside your wetsuit.
For longer races there are cut off points along the course. If you don’t make them in time you will not be allowed to continue the race. In case you decide to stop always make sure you inform the organisation to prevent them starting a rescue operation. Before every race there is a mandatory race briefing where you will be informed about last minute changes to the course, race conditions (i.e. water / air temperature, sea state) and race rules. Other things normally provided by the organisation are: local transport to and from the finish line, finisher medal, t-shirt, changing and shower facilities, post race food and drinks, prize ceremony for the winners in each category. Finally, think before you act. Water entries are high risk places for slip, trip and fall incidents. Always open your wetsuit at the start of each run and try out your swimrun equipment set-up. Test your energy gels before race day to prevent stomach problems. Select a compatible race partner, train together and race smart. Have fun, it’s not difficult at all. You’ll see.
Swimrun was born in Sweden but in the first edition of ÖtillÖ (in 2006) Finland took home the gold medal by using inflatable nokia phones on the swim sections! Since then there has not been a Finnish team on the top spot in the (unofficial) Swimrun World Championships. It was only in 2012, when Finland organised their first edition of Solvalla swimrun when things started to evolve rapidly.
Along with three other swimruns in Sweden (Ängaloppet, Öloppet and Amfibiemannen) the world has steadily seen an increase in swimruns all over the world. Fast forward to 2020 there are well over 500! swimrun events covering every month of the year and every continent on the planet.
With well over 200 swimrun races per year Sweden has traditionally dominated the swimrun world with total number of events. However, in recent years France has taken over the stick as leading country since a milder climate allows swimruns to take place all year around.
Compared to other countries it’s clear that Finland has not really picked up on the sport of swimrun just yet but as they say: “All good things are worth waiting for…” just like what happened with trail running and triathlon it took a few years before people realised that anybody can do it. For sure it does not help that swimrun still has the image of an extreme sport that can only be done by “tough and crazy adventure racers”. Those days are long gone but the damage is done and it’s extra difficult to change that stigma and turn the it around into a sport that can be done by anyone who has an interest in swimming and running in nature. Today there are around nine swimrun events in Finland. Check out our 2020 swimrun calender for more details. Some coastal swimrun events like Porkala swimrun and Koppernäs swimrun have disappeared but for sure they will come back in another set-up and location.
Swimrun is a young sport without an official governing federation in most countries. In France, swimrun is covered under the French Triathlon Federation same as in Germany.
There is a difference of opinion whether swimrun should be part of a federation. The good side is that certain safety and environmental standards can be implemented which can raise the quality and experience of swimrun events. Things will become more clear and consistent. Then again, do we want to standardise a sport where there is absolutely nothing constant the minute the gun goes off. It seems a bit against the spirit of swimrun. There is a crossroads ahead of us just like what happened in triathlon. On the one hand you have the strictly controlled triathlon worldseries as part of ITU vs a commercial brand such as IRONMAN triathlon or CHALLENGE. Whatever it may be we live now and these are the most common rules applied in most swimrun races accross Finland.
- The summer is determined by what’s done in the Winter
- Better to arrive 90% fit at the startline than 10% over-trained
- Never race ”somebody else’s race”…if you want to reach the finish line
- In a team of two ”you are eachother’s weakest link..”
- ”1+1 becomes more than 2” when you improve your weaknesses and share you strengths
- Garbage (”training…”) belongs in the bin – nowhere else”
- Ignore the hype” – Invest in swimrun gear that reflects your level of fitness, ability and body type
- ”If Suffering is a choice” then ”Pain has a meaning”
- ”Know where you came from” – don’t compare, set realistic goals to avoid race day disappointments
- Training is the effort and racing the reward
- On a ”good” day push yourself on a ”bad” day – back off!
- Training routines are good ONLY if they have a purpose
- Swimrun is a paradox where ”Change is the only Constant””
- Your watch is merely repeating what you already know..” – Trust your Instincts
- Drills: engaging specific muscles with the correct movements – do them well or don’t do them at all
- If your running posture ”looks like a monkey you probably run like one”
- Training diversity should also include non-impact elements: biking, gym, swamp running, rowing, skiing, aqua jogging
- Entry & exit points – ”slowing down for 5 seconds” may save you 5 months of injuries“
- Keep swimrun genuine and fair play – No Doping! Follow the course, no outside assistance, zero aggression
- Swimrun is one big interval session so train for it accordingly
- Knowing the course in advance can be more valuable than trying to be the fastest
- Key TEAM ingredients include: Harmony, Energy and Strength
- Teach your body to ”burn fat” (not bars and gels)
- Eat fresh, natural and go with the season! Try Nosht – all natural plant based energy
- Transitions are “the 3rd discipline in swimrun” – learn it well and you will be save a lot of time..
- Be serious but …don’t take it too seriously!..
“Everything is interrelated in Swimrun finding harmony and balance between experience, intuition and knowledge is key“
Swimrunners with improved intuitive skills excel in the following scenarios:
* Fast response situations – needed at transitions
* Unexpected change – needed for technical trail running
* High pressure situations without a clear choice – needed when equipment brakes down
* Conflicting options – needed when your partner has a different view
* No prior experience available – needed when you do the course for the first time
* To improvise in tough situations – needed to protect yourself, stay injury free