As a triathlete and someone who enjoys the disciplines of it separately, I often get asked something along the lines of “I think triathlon is cool, but I’m not ready for/not interested in X portion of the race”. If that’s you and X = “The Bike”, you are in luck! Swim-Run events, or Aquathlon, is exactly what it sounds like. Start with a swim, and go straight into running. These events can have two formats, both of which I will discuss as well as tips to prepare for a swim-run event.
Format 1: Traditional One Swim, One Run
This is basically a triathlon without the bike and with one transition instead of two. When it comes to a one-round swim-run event, there will usually be a smaller transition area outside the water. Similar to triathlons, you will put your shoes, towel, nutrition, and anything else you may need in this area. This is the type of event I have done. My recommendation is to know the course. For example, at this event the transition from swim to run was on a hill. I didn’t expect this and it was brutal for someone with a breathing condition, like me! Outside of that, it was a ton of fun and I highly recommend doing one. These are nice because your transition is mostly putting on socks and shoes. These races tend to run shorter so the need to strategize nutrition is less complicated. Please drink plenty of water, though!
Format 2: Repeats of Swim, Run, Swim, Run….
This is where the races get a bit different! Instead of swim-run-done, these races can have two or more rounds of swim-run event. In this case, the big question is likely, “but what do you do with your running shoes?” You wear them, of course! While you could take your shoes on and off, it takes away a lot of time and many swim-run events of this format will require you to keep your shoes on. This is recommended since re-entering the water can involve rocks and other obstacles that could hurt your feet. While I have seen people complete these races with a swim cap on during the run, it’s not recommended. Unlike the single round swim-run event, this takes more strategy in both pacing and fuel; going in and out of the water that many times will deplete your system! Everyone’s nutrition is different. At transition, I would recommend having electrolytes, water, and whatever nutrition works best for you for this sort of race.
While cycling is a fun, exciting, and wonderful part of the endurance world, not everyone has access to safe roads. In addition to the safe road, there are financial limitations for some. It can be expensive to get everything needed for training and racing. Some are recovering from crashes and other trauma involving bikes, but want an endurance outlet. Swim-run is here for you! These events, in my experience, are also quite easy to spectate. Cheering for athletes in a swim-run event provide you with more time watching the event than in a triathlon. The cycling route can be far away and you may be unable to get to certain points to cheer. Swim-Run events are a fantastic alternative and a sport that deserves more exposure and attendance!
Side note: If this format interests you but you also want to bike, there is a series of races called SOS Triathlon where the race is bike-run-swim-run-swim-run-swim-run or hill climb.