A beginners guide to the Swimrun Sprint by Galahad Clark
It is for you, it’s for your mum, dad, friends, lovers and tormentors. I categorise myself as a sinker (not a swimmer) and carry a decent gut from rather more wine than trail time.
When invited to join the first Scilly Isles swimrun last year, I was terrified – I didn’t know what kit to wear and was sure I’d humiliate myself languishing in the water. I didn’t have much chance to train – I’d barely completed more than 10 lengths of the local swimming pool. Did I mention, I was nervous?
At the end of the 15-km course that I completed with my cousin, Asher, in about two and a half hours, we were elated. If anything, we looked at each other and said, “Was that it”? We felt a lot less tired and our bodies much happier than if we’d spent the same time only running or swimming …
Before you know it, you’re done, having spent some fun time with your mate in nature, looking at stunning scenery. What’s not to love?
The thing is, spending two to three hours out in the wild, running and swimming, would usually be totally exhausting to the average (or even, in my case, below average) human. In reality, the swimrun sprints are a bit like being a kid on holiday in a beautiful place (and all the ÖTILLÖ races really are in beautiful places – “unique races, in unique places”). You run around for a bit (the equivalent of playing football for half an hour or so) and when you get a bit hot and sweaty, you jump in the water and swim for a bit. Then when you’re nicely cooled down, you climb out and run around a bit more. Do that a few (four or five) more times and, before you know it, you’re done, having spent some fun time with your mate in nature, looking at stunning scenery. What’s not to love?
I could not recommend the sprint enough to anyone. It will give you a brand new perspective and confidence anytime you are in a beautiful place surrounded by water – and a whole new approach on the possibilities of how to move through nature, both horizontally and vertically!
Advice before you go on the sprint. (I’ve never done a long one but have now completed 3 little ones)
Run around a bit (can you do a 5 km run?). Swim around a bit (can you do 20 lengths of the pool?)
WETSUIT: Get the intro level Head wetsuit (they are best)
GOGGLES: Any comfortable pair – most people wear simple in eye goggles.
SHOES: Trail shoes that help you feel the ground. Shoes that are nice and wide, and let your feet do their natural thing, make better flippers and allow your feet to warm up more quickly (that’s the Vivobarefoot Primus SG, if you were still guessing!?)
Non-Essential Kit (Optional)
FLOAT: A simple float between the legs with elastic round it gives your legs a rest when you’re playing around in the water. My centre of gravity is low, so I’ve always used them and like “resting” my legs during the swim.
TIE CORD: a rope with clips and two belts – I “really” like this for the swim bits. It allows the stronger swimmer (if you are both the same then you can take turns) to swim in front and the less strong swimmer to be pulled a bit – but also just keep their head down and enjoy the swim rather than constantly trying to find their partner.
HAND PADDLES: totally optional – less and less people are using them – try them out in the pool – if you like them fine. If not also fine. I still haven’t figured out if I’m quicker with or without them!?!? The last swimrun I did my partner didn’t have them and I did – he was not necessarily a much better swimmer than I but went a lot faster than I did without the paddles!
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 1 (Feb/Mar 2017)