Participants start and finish the race as teams of two, running and swimming the whole course together, helping each other where possible in an effort to be stronger than the weakest link. A special feature of swimrun is that teams are allowed to carry anything they want (except floating devices or motorized items) as long as they finish with all their items. Teams have come up with a whole range of creative solutions, however the bungee cord connecting team members seems to be one of the more efficient ones on the swim which obviously induces a strong team spirit.
SwimRun is a very interesting sport in terms of the extra gear that you are allowed to use during races. The current rules state that you must get from the start to the finish as quickly as possible using only equipment that you can carry all the way to the end, i.e you must finish with eveything you started out with! Regulations state that you must wear a wetsuit, carry certain mandatory safety items and that any flotation device should not exceed 100 x 60 cm, but really your imagination is the only other restriction!
Most popular is the use of hand paddles, pull boys and fins. Some teams use tow lines and carry bags or tow floats. Some choose to keep it as simple as possible and take as little as they can. Whatever equipment you choose to use while you SwimRun, it is important to train with it and get slick at managing it during transitions when you are wet, cold and tired.
To help you decide what equipment to use, below is a list of common gear used for Swim Run (as found on this wonderful website):
The trainers you wear for SwimRun not only need to be comfortable for the long distances of technical trail running that you’ll be doing in your race but also need to be suitable for use in the water. Make sure they are a snug fit so they don’t come off when swimming and that they don’t soak up much water and drain well. Running with wet shoes on slippery rocks requires good traction so Good grippy soles are essential!
Make sure you wear your trainers in properly before the race day to avoid blisters! When your feet get the wet the skin softens and makes them more prone to soreness and rubbing. Start by running short distances with wet feet and build up – they soon toughen up! See article our article on SwimRun Trainers for more information.
Goggles are essential to avoid getting water in your eyes. You will need to have clear vision for sighting in open water. Cold water can also be quite uncomfortable on the face and eyes so covering up helps a lot! Goggles come in all shapes and sizes so try lots on and select a pair that fits your face well. Test them well in open water before hand – there is nothing more irritating than leaky goggles! Sprays are available that help coat the inside of the goggles and help to prevent them misting up. It might be worth having a couple of pairs at the ready with different lenses. On dull days clear lenses will be best but on bright sunny days a tinted or polarised pair will help stop glare from the water. Some participants carry a second pair of spare goggles incase they lose them whilst running. Think about how you are going to carry them if you take them off your head to run.
Swim cap (provided)
We will be providing swim caps for our SuretoSure Swimrun event. Caps are made of either latex or silicone – latex is thinner and can be more comfortable but can rip easily and some people are allergic to the rubber. Silicone of stronger and thicker and generally more popular
Cold water in the ears can be quite uncomfortable and irritate the balance nerve, making you dizzy and disorientated during the swim. A pair of earplugs often solves the problem. Good ones can be fitted to your individual ear shapes to give a really good seal. If you won’t want to wear them when running, think about how you will carry them.
Many people use hand paddles for SwimRun. These add some extra power to your strokes by increasing the ‘catch’ are of your hand. There are loads of different paddles on the market, but you’ll need some that have straps to hold it on your hand or they can easily come off and be lost in open water. You’ll also need to think about how you are going to carry them on your runs and practice your transitions – getting out on rocky ground is hard when your have paddles on your hands!
If you decide to use paddles you must train with them a lot! Using paddles takes good technique and puts a lot of strain on your shoulders and back muscles. You need to build up the strength to be able to use them over long distances. If you don’t you will soon find you get very tired and worse you can injure yourself!
The use of fins/flippers is allowed in SwimRun. I haven’t used them myself. I think you’d need to try them out to see how much advantage they would give you on the swim and balance that with the fact that you have to take the time to change them for your trainers at each transition and then carry them on the runs.
SwimRun rules state that you can use any flotation aids so long as they are no bigger than 100 cm x 60 cm – imagination is your only other limit! Most people just use a pull buoy.
If you decide to swim wearing your trainers rather than carry them you might want to consider using pull buoy. This float, which you hold between your legs instead of kicking, gives you extra buoyancy and allows you to save your legs during the swims. You’ll appreciate this when it is time to run! Using a pull buoy is generally why people decide to use the hand paddles as the extra propulsion makes up for the loss of the power from the kick. Pull buoys come in different shapes and sizes – what you use depends really on how much lift you need in your legs. For example, if you have a short wetsuit and heavy trainers you’ll need a bigger float.
Remember that you are going to have to carry the float during the runs so for hands free usage you can customise the pull buoy so you can attach it to your leg. Pierce it and insert rubber or elastic straps to make a loop that you can wear around your leg. Test it well in the water and running before a race – if it’s too tight it will be uncomfortable and restrict the blood flow, to loose and it will twist around and drop down at inconvenient times! Watch this ‘How to’ video from Head.
Some SwimRun teams use an elastic towline, this can perform several functions. Attaching yourself to your partner prevents you from losing each other. Also, the stronger team member can help the weaker by pulling them along. This works in both the run and the swim and you can swap position at different stages during the race of you need to. The maximum length of line allowed for SwimRun is 10m. Bear in mind that you need to find a way if attaching the line to each other. This might involve wearing belts and using karabinas, or some SwimRun specific wetsuits are integral waist loops for this purpose. You also need to practice using the line as it can be quite fiddly to manage.
Tow floats are a brightly coloured, inflatable device that is tethered around your waist, increasing your visibility to other water users and, providing bouyant support if you need to rest or wait for assistance. They come in a few different styles: simple blow up floats, dry-bag versions (with internal inflatable pockets) in different sizes, and a doughnut shaped one with a dry bag on top – both of which enable you to tow belongings with you. They are great to use for security if you are swimming alone or if you are doing a long swim and want to carry some food, drink and your phone etc. Some now have pockets with clear windows that are great if you need to carry a map etc. You can also attach small items to the outside of your tow float, such as a whistle, or small mesh bags to hold gels for quick access.
Most of the time you don’t even notice you are wearing a tow float but if you are towing a lot of weight or are swimming into strong wind it can cause some drag. If you swim with the wind it can blow over your back or head and get in the way of your stroke. If you plan to use one during your SwimRun event (sometimes tow floats are mandatory equipment) make sure you have practiced using it and if you are going to store kit it in, make sure you can operate the clips with cold hands! Think about how you are going to manage it whilst running and practice your transitions with it.
Neoprene calf sleeves
Neoprene calf sleeves are now available and even come as extra with some SwimRun specific wetsuits. They are usually made from 6-8mm neoprene so wearing these will give you lots of extra buoyancy in the lower legs and help in the same way a pull buoy will if you are wearing trainers during the swims – you can use both if you wish! The advantage of wearing neoprene calf sleeves over using a pull buoy is that you will still be able to kick freely during the swims. They also offer protection to your legs when you are getting in and out of the water on sharp rocks and when you are running through undergrowth. They do get rather warm though!
Having a small bag or pack can be useful for carrying the mandatory kit during an event, such as first aid kit, compass and map and spare food. Practice swimming with the bag/pack you intend to use to make sure it is not too heavy or restrictive to swim in. Close fitting bags made from free draining mesh fabrics often work best. If you use a tow float (see above) you can carry your gear in that instead.
Food & Water
Most SwimRun events will have water and food stations, but it’s also a good idea to take your own with you for emergency bonks! Some people swim with a hydration pack, others with a hydration belt/bum bag and it is also possible to stuff a small soft water bottle inside the wetsuit. Whatever food you carry needs to be water proof! Gels or individually wrapped energy bars are good. Make sure you take any litter away with you!
All SwimRun races will have a mandatory equipment list that will include at least a compass & map, whistle & some kind of first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to carry a phone in a waterproof case and some emergency food such as a gel. If you are not using a tow float then your wetsuit will provide you with some buoyancy if you need to stop in the water but other small emergency flotation devises can be carried such as The Swim It or Restube.
There are now SwimRun specific wetsuits available but if you are new to SwimRun there is no reason why you can’t give it a go in the wetsuit you already own. A regular full swimming wetsuit will certainly do a perfectly good job for you in the swimming stages, it will just take a bit more getting used to when you find yourself out running on dry land. During a SwimRun race you are likely to be wearing a mesh bib over the top so suits that have the zip at the back can be tricky to undo when you start to get hot and want to take the top half off.
For those of you new to Swimrun or interested in knowing more about it, we warmly recommend visiting loveswimrun.co.uk