FEATURES,  View from the Water

Six brilliant things about swimrun

I’ve just returned, buzzing, from this trip to Croatia and Ötillö Swimrun Hvar. We’ll have a full report on the event in our May issue of the magazine. For now, here are six brilliant things about swimrun. If you haven’t done one yet, we recommend it.

The swimrun community is awesome

I stupidly left my laptop on the plane on my flight to Hvar Swimrun. When I realised, I was with VivoBarefoot founder & MD Galahad Clark (whose company sponsors Ötillö). He arranged for one of his colleagues who was flying in later that day to collect my laptop from lost property at the airport and a few hours later it was returned to me. On my way back, I spotted a fellow competitor. We started talking and he immediately offered me a lift to the airport. To be fair, the outdoor swimming community is equally awesome and once helped me recover a lost phone but if you are a swimmer and want to try swimrun, you will be warmly welcomed.

Swimrun is more favourable to swimmers than triathlon

In swimrun, swimming typically makes up between 10 to 15 percent of the total distance. In the full distance Hvar event, it is nearly 22 percent. You typically spend 25 to 50 percent of your time swimming, compared with Ironman, where it could be less than 10 percent. In addition, because you alternate between swimming and running, it’s not all over after the first swim and there are plenty of opportunities to make up anything you might lose on the running sections. You also get to rest your legs!

Swimrun is challenge, rather than performance, orientated

It’s a race, yes, but as the organisers will tell you at the briefing, there can only be one winning team in each category. For most participants, it’s an adventure challenge. Unlike triathlon, which is usually conducted on smooth rates and tracks with regulated distances, swimrun pits you against nature and whatever distances are needed to complete the course.

You don’t need much kit

I packed everything I needed in a lightweight cabin bag, so travelling is easy. While many people use pull-floats and hand paddles, these aren’t necessary (personally, I think they are a nuisance). A wetsuit is compulsory but an old cut-down swimming wetsuit will do and I’m very happy with my entry-level two piece from Orca.

You won’t find the perfect partner

At least, I think it’s extremely unlikely. Swimrun is a team event. The chances are slim of you finding someone who exactly matches your swimming and running speeds, has the same pacing strategy and gets tired at the same points as you. Sometimes you will be the stronger person in the team and at other times the weaker one. This will vary through the event. You will sometimes be frustrated that you can’t move faster, then a few minutes later, find yourself struggling while your partner wants to surge ahead. How you deal with that as a team will determine what kind of experience you have.

It’s primal and liberating

This perhaps is the key reason why swimrun has grown so popular so quickly. You have to travel across land and water powered only by your own efforts. You don’t need a boat to reach the next piece of land and you can’t use a vehicle to cross it. There are no fussy transitions and changes of kit. You just move smoothly between land and water and back again.

Image: © Otillo Sprint Hvar Pierre Mangez

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.