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Looking for a new challenge? Consider a SwimRun

SwimRun events are taking off in Europe, but the sport has been slow to take hold in North America. Here's why you should think about doing one this year.

So why haven’t you done a SwimRun event yet? Over in Europe SwimRun events are becoming extremely popular, rivalling the popularity of triathlons in some areas. Globally there were over 500 SwimRun races around the world last year, with more on deck for 2020.

An athlete dives into the water during the Sudbury Mudskipper SwimRun race. Photo: Ian Feldman.

SwimRun races are multistage events that alternate between swimming and running. Swimming aids (paddles, fins, pull buoys and wetsuits) are permitted, but must be either worn or carried during the run. Running shoes are also required and need to be carried or worn during the swim.

When many people think of SwimRun events, they think of the famous ÖTILLÖ race in Sweden, which is SwimRun’s equivalent to the Ironman. Like the famous triathlon in Hawaii, the ÖTILLÖ race got its start in a bar, and as a challenge. The first ÖTILLÖ race took place in 2002 as a competition between two pairs of brothers. It continues to feature “partner” racing – now teams of two qualify at races around the world for the ÖTILLÖ World Championship, a 75 km race that sees athletes swim and run between 26 islands.

In 2014 an individual series of SwimRun races began in Italy, which has since grown to become the Aquaticrunner series, with its own world championship in Grado, Italy.

Now heading into it’s fourth year, the Muskipper SwimRun Challenge Series includes five SwimRun events in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Two of the races, Parry Sound and Kenora, are qualifiers for the Aquaticrunner worlds in Grado.

“Here in Canada, SwimRun is where triathlon was 35 years ago,” says Ian Feldman, the president of Canaquasports, the company that produces the Mudskipper series. “There aren’t enough events, and we need to get people exposed to the sport. In 2020 we’re working on both of those issues by expanding our event series, and we’ll also be doing clinics to help educate athletes about SwimRun training and racing.”

Athletes on the run at the Welland Mudskipper Swim Run. Photo: Anthony Gallaccio.

SwimRun Equipment

So, what do you need for a SwimRun race? Most races will require a wetsuit. While you don’t necessarily need a specific SwimRun wetsuit, you’ll certainly find the experience a lot easier with a suit designed for swimming and running.

Your shoe choice is very important, too. Look for something that is comfortable for long distances and the technical challenges of the trails, but can also be worn in the water. They need to be snug fitting, drain well and have grippy soles.

Triathletes who love swimming with paddles and pull buoys will be thrilled to learn that both are fair game in SwimRun races. The paddles provide more stroke power, while the pull buoy provides some welcome flotation for your legs – especially appreciated while swimming with shoes.

Taking on a new Challenge

For triathletes looking for something new, or for those who are finding it harder to fit cycling into their regular training routine, SwimRun is a logical choice. Multisport athletes around the world are taking on this new challenge – isn’t it time you gave one a shot?