English socialite Pippa Middleton will forever linger in my mind due to the incredible ivory dress she wore to her sister's royal wedding. But she deserves just as much recognition for braving the grueling 47-mile 2015 Ötillö Swimrun, which called for a whole new kind of outfit, not to mention a whole lot of willpower.
Not sure what Swimrun is to begin with? These five weird facts are your primer for a sport that’s (almost) out of this world.
#1 You swim with your running shoes on. No, seriously!
The first time one of Swijin’s co-founders tried swimming in sneakers, she just could not stop laughing. (See the IG video above for proof.) Her uncontrollable giggling was probably annoying for her much-younger swimming coach, who kept saying things like, “Alright, let’s focus now,” or, “Okay, Claudia, that’s enough.”
But could you blame her? What could be more ridiculous and unnatural than swimming in your running shoes? Or in any shoes at all, for that matter?
Swimming in shoes is one of the strange-but-true realities of Swimrun. With this sport, you need the flexibility to go wherever you must, without having to return where you started to gear up. That’s because when the race is off, there’s no going back: no pit stops, no wardrobe changes. You forge ahead until you reach the finish line.
Tip: By the way, you can totally get away with using trail running shoes for Swimrun. Find a pair that allows water to drain quickly, and be sure they have decent treads to keep your feet safe from craggy or slippery rocks and the occasional wild creature.
#2 You’ll shift, like an amphibian, between land and sea
Speaking of wild creatures, you sort of feel like one during Swimrun.
Unlike in a sequential multi-sport, like a triathlon (first swim, then bike, then run), Swimrun involves repeated transitions: You alternate back and forth between natural running trails and open water swimming in lakes or oceans.
You’ll feel a little more froglike than human, particularly when crawling out of the water on all fours.
Tip: Don’t use your legs when you are in the water. Give them a break to recuperate. Your pullbuoy can help you stay afloat, as you lead with your arms to glide through the water.
#3 You might be tied to another human
First it’s underwater running shoes, and now this? Well, I told you it was weird!
You see, although some people compete as individuals, the real idea behind Swimrun is to participate in teams of two. A length of flexible, bright yellow elastic cord can be used to connect you with your partner, to help you stay within 10 meters of your partner at all times.
While use of the cord is optional, many Swimrunners do make use of it to avoid disqualification for winding up more than 10 meters from their race partner. Especially in the open ocean, it’s easy to drift away from your teammate..
Tip: By using the towline, a strong swimmer can also help tow the slower one, or you can take turns, in case one of you becomes fatigued.
#4 You don’t ever change your clothes
Typically, you wear a Swimrun wetsuit (zipper is in the front, not the back) during an entire race. The bottom part of the wetsuit is made from a fabric other than the usual neoprene, allowing for greater freedom of movement when on the trails.
Yes, that means you’ll be running in a soggy wetsuit, but at least the Swimrun wetsuit has been designed so you can flex your knees freely.
Tip: Swijin’s SwimRunner™ set comes with a cross between a sports bra and bikini top, which is carefully designed to streamline transitions between water and land. If you want to join me in working on the first SwimRunner™ collection (and if you happen to like sneak previews in general), then sign up to become a Swijin Insider!
#5 All your gear is on your body, at all times
You could be slipping your pullbuoy under the cord around your waist on your runs, and then tucking it between your thighs on your swims. You might be running with a swim cap on, hand paddles dangling from your wrists.
Taken together, it looks a bit odd, like you’ve just done some light shoplifting from a scuba store and decided to make off with whatever loot you could carry on your person.
So, if you decide to give Swimrun a try, you can expect to appear perhaps less stylish than Pippa in a bridesmaid’s gown. That is something we must acknowledge.
But you can also expect that this sport has the power to teach you how to be fierce, how to be determined, and how to be prepared for any change that comes your way.
Tip: If you’re thinking you’d have to be either nuts or insanely athletic to try Swimrun, have no fear. Non-performance athletes can absolutely try this sport!
ÖTILLÖ Swimrun, a Swimrun event organizer, offers a short-and-sweet experience course. It’s great for beginners because it’s only about 5 km (3 miles) of running and 2 km (1 mile) of swimming.
Bonus Tip: Once you’ve got your, uhm, sneakers wet, sign up for ÖTILLÖ’s Sprint or World Series races and up your game.