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 one or more sports naural development, but rather a stand-alone phenomenon. It is the result of people’s natural curiosity and desire for adventure. Swimrun originates from a drunken bet among friends, skipping a couple of 100 years of development and time-specific historical influence. It is divergent in origin, its own product, without any pre-established sports-related cultural norms.
This is important.
Swimrun is a sport of our time.
You will have those arguing that swimrun has developed from 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. But also 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 this magical setting drew attention to the experience of the race, 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 train and participate in either men’s or women’s category (or team), where some have the option of competing in mixed. In swimrun you race in teams of 2, where all contestants start at the same time, under the same conditions, as one big group.
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, but 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 levelling 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 results for 2015, many races have become more of an open game. The ÖtillÖ world championship, saw 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), saw two mixed teams making the top 6, this out of a staggering +440 teams. Looking at some of the more mountainous and tougher swimrun races, the Rockman swimrun race saw a mixed team come in 2nd, and the Loch Gu Loch race in Scotland was 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 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