Swimrun. Sounds straightforward, right? You swim, then you run. Then you swim again. Then you… well, you get the picture. Simple as it sounds though, there are plenty of kit choices that should be considered before embarking on a swimrun adventure.
After all, you might not have the bike to worry about like in a tri, but you’re going to find yourself running with (and often tied to) a race partner, and doing all kinds of unnatural things like running in your wetsuit and swimming in your run shoes. So the kit you choose has to work equally well for both sports, without impeding your performance in either.
Your wetsuit needs to offer plenty of buoyancy and be warm enough to swim in chilly waters, but not so frogman-like that you can’t run in it and that you risk overheating if the sun comes out. Your run shoes need to be tough enough for wet, slippery rocks but light enough that they don’t act like an anchor in the water. Not only that, but there’s no nice transition zone to dump all your unwanted gear in…
However although there are some ‘interesting’ kit challenges, swimrun is such a new sport that it isn’t bound by the same rules as triathlon, so pretty much anything goes. Not only that, but the races are among some of the most beautiful we’ve seen and you get to race with a buddy to help you along (or tow you along, in some cases!).
Your wetsuit is the first piece of kit you’ll think about for swimrun. As anyone who’s tried to run a long tri transition in a wetsuit will testify, it’s not the most comfortable item to try and move quickly in. Get it wrong and you’ll be hot, slow, uncomfortable and badly chafed.
Several brands are now offering swimrun-specific wetsuits with prices ranging from £250 to almost £400. Comfort is key so aim to try before you buy to make sure the fit is perfect. Remember that the suit won’t be as close-fitting as a pure tri wetsuit, as you need room to run in it. Consider other needs too, such as pockets.
To reduce the amount of faffing in multiple transitions you’ll see some swimrunners racing without goggles. For the majority of us though, and/or in salty conditions, they’re pretty much a kit essential. You’ll need a good fit and range of vision as sighting is crucial in swimrun, as you’re often looking for beacons or strips of fluttering tape on distant islands. Photochromatic lenses are also a good idea, as they’ll allow you better visibility in changeable weather conditions. We like the Aphotic by Huub (£39.99).
SWIMRUN TOP & SHORTS
Choosing kit to wear next to your skin that dries quickly and won’t chafe is key. Head sell a swimrun-specific vest top (£75) and shorts (£70). Alternatively, consider a pair of lightweight jammers (closer fitting to again reduce chafing) or for female athletes, a two-piece swimsuit comprising a sports bra-type top for support and shorts, such as the Kobi by Aqua Sphere (£39.99) that’s designed to be quick-drying and compressive. A vest-style tri top can be worn over the top. Finally, some athletes also like to wear a 1 or 2mm surf-style rash vest if race day’s predicted to be on the chilly side.
Swimrun is largely unregulated in terms of kit, so pretty much anything goes with flotation aids. You can strap a pull buoy to your leg (spinning it round to between the legs to swim), shove foam down calf guards and strap on home-made devices made out of foam, empty water bottles or whatever ingenious ideas you come up with.
Many swimrunners will also attach paddles to their wrists, but exercise caution here unless you’re a strong swimmer, as you could damage your shoulders if they’re too big. One of the biggest benefits in swimrun is being attached to your partner by a bungee cord – meaning you can take it in turns to draft.
SWIMRUN TRAIL SHOES
Your choice of footwear is right up alongside the wetsuit in terms of importance. Many swimrunners choose to swim in their shoes rather than taking them off, so you need a pair that’ll drain water and dry quickly, as well as being sturdy enough to handle the often-brutal swimrun terrain.
The shoes also need to be light – the heavier the shoe, the more drag in the water. Vivobarefoot are the first company to produce a swimrun-specific shoe with their Primus Trail SG (£110). They’re very minimalist, so you’ll need to adapt before racing in them. Other brands favoured by swimrunners include Inov-8 – who recommend their X-Talon 200 or 212s – and
Swedish brand Icebug who specialise in shoes for slippery conditions. The Acceleritas W OCR RB9X is shown here (€129.95).
Swimrun allows you a lot of freedom, but some essential safety kit is needed. ÖtillÖ races require you to carry a first aid bandage in waterproof packaging, a compass or watch compass and a whistle. You’ll also be given a swim hat, race bib, timing chip and map. A GPS watch is a good idea!
The race organisers will give you a swim cap to identify you by. For warmth, however, it’s a good idea to double up and, if really cold, choose a neoprene cap. Head also sell a neoprene headband for swimrunners that works by covering the sensitive baroreceptors in the forehead and helps prevent the dreaded ice-cream-head feeling.
SWIMRUN SOCKS/CALF GUARDS
Unless you like chafing, then socks are a pretty good idea for swimrun. Like with your shoe choice, you’ll need a pair that are lightweight, wicking and which dry quickly. Swedish brand Gococo are leading the way and also
produce the natty orange ÖtillÖ-branded pair seen here, which also offer compressive benefits.
Alternatively, choose your socks and then add calf guards to get the compression – we’re fans of the Compressport R2 V2 (£35), which are lightweight and include a tab to protect the knee. The other benefit of calf guards is you can stuff strips of foam material down them, to add buoyancy in the legs.