Swimrun - combining my 2 favourite sports
What is a swimrun? Well, for the uninitiated, it’s an adventure race that involves running and swimming, in the same gear. Yes, you swim and run in your wetsuit and running trainers. It’s not as daft as it sounds.
The concept started in Sweden with races across the archipelago and Breca are leading the way in developing the concept in the UK but other companies are also getting in on the act.
In the summer I joined the Breca Gower sprint distance race in Wales. There is usually a sprint and full distance but due to Covid, just the sprint distance was on offer. The word "Sprint" suggests easy but this was anything but that.
The original race format required entrants to compete in pairs but you can now enter solo but need to have a tow float with you as well if you do. I chose to race as a team and raced with a friend’s sister who I met for the first time on race day. We quickly established that she was a more confident swimmer but with 2.6km of swimming and around 24km of running, the race played to my strength in running. Really, though, we were there for a fun day out with some spectacular scenery.
The race was epic and unlike anything I have ever done. It started with a 3km run along the stunning Oxwich Bay then a 600m sea swim around the headland to the next bay. This turned out to be pretty tough and anxiety inducing on my part as the water was very choppy and exposed and I felt like I was swimming backwards, particularly as swimming in trainers with a pull buoy to keep my legs afloat meant I lost the benefit of being able to kick to propel me as well. We finally made it to shore for the longest run section – 8km up and over sand dunes along the coast path. Given the distance I stripped the top of my wetsuit down to keep cool. The next swim was another 0.6km around another headland – again very choppy and a difficult swim but thankfully the swarms of jellyfish we had been warned about didn't join the swim party.
Once out of the water we ran 3km on the coast path and scrambled down some rocks for the last long swim of 700m. This last swim was across a bay. Psychologically being able to see the exit point and knowing it was the last longer swim calmed by nerves. The exit was hairy though as we were told to try and avoid a rip current and rocks on making shore – they really did keep this adventurous.
After another short run the final swim was a short 300m across the prettily named Bracelet Bay but again, the race organisers kept it interesting with a scramble down rocks to get into the water. Finally we were out for the final run back to the start, with a final lap around the event field. We made it.
The race was brilliant, the sea conditions made it a real challenge but the run sections on the coast path allowed for stunning views and varied terrain. This is by no means a quick event, especially when you are there to complete it and need to factor in time to faff around taking off the race bib and stripping down the top of your wetsuit as well as mucking around with goggles and caps but it’s fun and friendly and well organised and racing as part of a team meant that I got to share the fun and faffing.
The kit choices are varied but here’s what I wore:
Biker short style run shorts
2XU Swimrun wetsuit
Asics run socks
Adidas terrex ultra trainers
Soft flask (the wetsuit had a pocket to carry it)
Predator flex goggles
Pull buoy with home made bungee straps to keep legs afloat.
The Breca series has races in the Lake District, Loch Lomond and Jersey and the run/swim distances differ for each race. I would love to enter another next year but would invest in neoprene calf guards to keep my legs afloat which we enable me to kick as well. Otherwise, the kit choices worked out well, particularly my trail shoes which are super light and drained well. Interested? Give it a go!