The new sport of swimrun doesn’t have the luxury of claiming a historical heritage like golf for instance. Neither is it the result of the natural development of one or more sports, but rather a stand-alone phenomenon. A result of peoples’ natural curiosity and desire for adventure. It originates from a drunken bet among friends, skipping a couple of 100 years of development and time-specific historical influence, making it its own product, divergent in origin and without any pre-established sports-related cultural norms.
And this is important, because Swimrun is a sport of our time.
You will have those arguing that swimrun is the natural development of triathlon or aquathlon, but nothing could be farther from the truth. To understand why, you need to understand the setting of its origin, i.e. one of the most unique archipelagos in the world, with some 30.000 plus islands and the very special Swedish system of the Right of common (Allemansrätten) that gives you as a private person the right to cross most private properties without having to ask for permission. It didn’t take long for people to grasp and fall in love with this unique way of racing. The sense of hardship and adventure in a magical setting drew attention to the experience of the race, while trying to make it to the end, rather than racing against each other and finishing 1st. And yes, it was tough, with quite a lot of DNFs in the beginning.
Today the swimrun scene has exploded with numerous variants. Following the natural developments of most sports. It’s also based on gender categories, but with a twist. In most sports you participate in either men’s and women’s, where only some have the option of racing in mixed. However, in swimrun you race in teams of 2, where all contestants start at the same time, under the same conditions, as one group.
The race results are being balanced out
The year swimrun took off in 2009, there were 51 men’s team, 4 mix team and 3 women’s team on the starting line. A male dominance one can argue, and looking at the results from that year, women and mixed ended up in 11th and 13th place in total, which is impressive given the line-up. Now, like in most sports when it comes to performance in the top tier, men do have a physical advantage towards women. But given the natural setting of swimrun racing and the aspect of racing in twos, several technical aspects can play their part in leveling the odds such as: technical trail, choppy or cold water conditions, the level of difficulty in orienting in water and on land, the many ins and outs, and the type of gear being used by the team. Just to mention some. But lets not also forget that in longer endurance races, women tend to outlast men. On a subjective note, competing in the mixed category myself, I’ve overheard other mixed teams on numerous occasions witnessing as to how they have had to share the burden of the race, taking turns in pulling and pushing each other.
Looking at some of the previous results, many races have become an open game. Team Annica Ericsson and Kristin Larsson (SE) have been crushing the competition and last year won the SwimrunMan competition all together. This is where the receptionist from the little village of Les Salles-sur Verdon dropped the now famous comment “But you are women?!”
The ÖtillÖ world championship has seen their first non-all-male team beating the 9 hour mark, a mixed team coming in 5th in total, which is impressive keeping in mind that ÖtillÖ draws the best of the best in the world. Ångaloppet, the world’s biggest swimrun race (counting the number of teams), have seen two mixed teams making the top 6, this out of a staggering +440 teams. The Rockman swimrun race saw a mixed team come in 2nd, and the Loch Gu Loch race in Scotland has been won by a mixed team with the 2nd mixed team coming in at 4th place, and with the 1st female team finishing 5th.
Looking into the setting of swimrun it can’t be “easier” to compete. Everyone starts together at the same time, with no specific class-division, racing on equal terms with no benefits being drawn or any type of race allowance. There is no differentiation in technical gear. You race individually against your own capacity and as part of a team, dependent on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
You start together, race together and finish together.
Swimrun, as equal as it gets!
/The WoS Team