160 known races in the world, but what can we say about them?

We all know by now that swimrun is a sport that will keep on growing at a steadfast pace. Looking at the trajectory we can expect a sharp increase over the coming years (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Number of new races per year, 2006-2016

But in which direction(s) is the sport heading?

Looking at all races more in-depth, and how they distribute themselves among the 4 race categories; <20km (sprint); 20-40km (standard); 40-75km (long) and the +75 km (ultra-distance), the majority (N=82) can be found back in the sprint category (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Total number of new races per race category, 2006-2016

Everyone can swimrun, but not all can endure a +65 km long swimrun race like ÖtillÖ. Shorter races can therefore be seen as a natural response to a growing demand of making the sport available to more people. This has been evident with all the races popping up in and around the bigger cities, taking advantage of already paved racing ground. This ‘urbanisation’ of swimrun is especially obvious when looking at capital cities like Stockholm or Copenhagen. Races that are popping up in and around the city centres, are usually accessible by public transport or a short bike ride.

sthlm cph

For race organisers, it’s much easier to set up a shorter race in a controlled environment rather than having to break virgin ground. And close racing options usually mean better training options, perfect for the causal swimrunner and excellent for the continued development of the sport.

So, swimrun is growing, but in what way?

The trend of the sport opening up to more people is supported by the number and types of races being launched. The overall development show a strong expansion of new races in the sprint (<20km) and standard (20-40km) category (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Yearly development of new races per race category, 2006-2016

Looking at the last 3 years, the sprint category has exploded and our sources tell us more are on their way. The development in the 20-40km standard category has also been strong, yet not as intense (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Development of new races in the sprint and swimrun category, 2013-2016

Country-wise, we can see that France, Italy and UK, all have seen a strong expansion of races over the last couple of years, with Denmark, Spain and Finland following closely (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Number of new races per country, 2015-2016

fig 6

Looking at some specifics, we can see that all but UK have focused on the shorter type of races (figure 6).

Figure 6. Distribution of races per race category and country

Ok, we have a good understanding for the different race types and where to do them, but how do I know which race to choose?

Choosing a new race can be a bit tricky, especially if you’ve never set foot in the country or the race environment. This is why many racers get a minor shock when doing ÖtillÖ for the first time. To get a feel for the race in advance, it’s important to know as much as possible, to help you prepare, train and choose the appropriate gear. One of these important facts is the swim-ratio, i.e. how long the overall swim is in relation to the total length of the race. The swim segments are usually time-consuming and can be really tough if the water is cold or the currents are strong, why a not-so-strong swimmer should take into consideration if a race has a high swim-ratio. The majority of races have a swim ration in between 10-20%, which is convenient for those who are not so strong in the swimming (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Swim ratio distribution among races for 2016

Looking at the swim ratio distribution in relation to the race categories we can see that the sprint category more or less have everything for everyone, but the longer a race, the lower the swim-ratio will become (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Swim ratio distribution per race category, Average (Min-Max), N=97

Today, the swimrunner have plenty of options to choose from when deciding on a race. In a series of post, World of Swimrun will go through these important variables and create a detailed guide for what to think of when choosing a race. This important information will be posted in relation to each race in our race map, and discussed in length in our race forum, so stay tuned and enjoy!

World of Swimrun – Where swimrunners meet!

/The WoS Team

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