I have wanted to try Swimrun for a while – it should be a perfect fit for me because I love trail running and open water swimming. Add in the Lake District (which I also love) and the Coniston Swimrun seemed like my perfect event! Due to an injury-induced lack of running this year I went for the short course – 4 swims and 3 runs totalling just under 14k (longer distances of 22k/45k were available). For anyone who hasn’t heard of Swimrun it combines multiple swims and runs into one event, so you swim in your running shoes and run in your wetsuit. To that end you can use a pull buoy and neoprene calf guards to help your feet stay afloat, hand paddles to propel you along a bit quicker, and there are Swimrun specific wetsuits (short ones) that are easier to run in – a perfect event for an ‘all the gear and no idea’ experience! It also presents logistical challenges of how to carry your swimming kit while running (pull buoy strapped to leg, goggles on head, mandatory tow float on back) and how to carry nutrition (Swimrun wetsuits tend to have little pockets, plus you need to use the aid stations!).
The race started at Wray Castle on the western shores of Lake Windermere at 11.45am in heavy rain. The swims were in Windermere, Rydal Water and Grasmere, with runs between the lakes and to the finish in Grasmere village. The trails were quite technical, with one particularly steep up and down between Windermere and Rydal which was mostly mud and wet rock – my Mudclaws coped well with the former but didn’t like the latter and I was quite tentative especially on the descent, having twisted my ankle on similar terrain in the Lake District back in March and having to have 3+ months off running. The swims were cold, but the last swim in Grasmere was extra chilly and as I exited I suffered a horrific cramp in my right hamstring – I couldn’t even get out of the water, I just clung to a large rock and swore loudly for a minute until it subsided slightly! Thankfully a minute or so of stretching on the bank cleared it and I was able to run normally to the finish. Getting support from the hardy walkers out in the torrential rain was nice – as one woman dressed head to toe in waterproofs said as i ran past her “well done… and I thought I was mad!”
The race took me almost 2 hours – much longer than the 90 mins I had optimistically estimated. I finished 2nd, though it’s fair to say that those of us on the short course were completers rather than competers and I was overtaken by a fair number of those leading the longer races, with all distances timed to finish at roughly the same time.
I would thoroughly recommend a Swimrun to anyone keen to try something a bit different. If you like beautiful scenery, bad weather and challenging terrain, the Consiton Swimrun might be a good one to try!