If you’re new to swimrun, perhaps researching whether it’s a good fit for you, the first question you’re likely to have is ‘What’s with all the gear?’
At first glance, it can look like you need a lot of gear, but you can get by with very little and build up to utilising more as you develop your skills and experience racing.
To start with, there is a set of compulsory gear you will need to wear and race with, and then beyond that you can choose what additional gear you might want to race with to enhance your buoyancy, propulsion and comfort.
Each swimrun event has a list of different compulsory gear depending on the location and distance of your event. At Swimrun Australia, our compulsory gear includes a swim cap, vest, shoes and swimsuit.
As part of your race kit, you will receive and be required to wear a swim cap during the swim legs at a minimum.
We use swim caps as a way to identify you when swimming in the water.
Many swimrunners like to take their swim cap off during the run legs so they don’t overheat, tucking it into their tops or togs before placing it back on again as they enter the water.
Your race vest is an important part of your race kit and we require that all participants wear their race vest for the whole duration of the race.
We use race vests to identify you throughout the race, particularly on the run legs and as you finish. Vests are numbered so that team members can be matched together and monitored throughout the race to ensure they’re racing together, within the 10m maximum distance allowed.
At Swimrun Australia, we reuse race vests at each event so we collect your vest after you finish, then we wash them, sort them and get them prepared for the next event. Vests are one-size-fits-all, however, they can be tied up into a knot at the back if they are too baggy.
Shoes are compulsory at all Swimrun Australia events and must be worn at all times during the race.
For safety reasons, this includes the swim legs where entering and exiting the water can be slippery and you may have to scramble over rough, sharp surfaces, like rocks.
Whilst the best shoes are light, have good grip and drain well, almost any running shoe will do the trick. Most participants get away with just wearing a pair of old trainers that they are already comfortable in.
Beyond the basics, trail running shoes tend to be the best fit for swimrun, and some brands have now started to make specialist swimrun shoes.
This piece of gear should be obvious… you will need to wear a swimsuit of some description!
For males, that tends to be a jammer-style swimsuit, and for females either a one-piece or two-piece, depending on your preference.
When choosing a swimsuit to race in, make sure you train in it – including running – before race day to ensure it’s comfortable and doesn’t cause adverse chaffing.
Carrying a whistle is a requirement in Swimrun Australia events.
The reason whistles are carried is so that water safety resources can position themselves further away from swimmers in the water, allowing for a more natural swim leg experience. Whilst water safety is always watching out for swimmers, should you, your partner or another swimrunner require assistance, the use of a whistle will alert the water safety.
Whistles are easy to race with as they can be stored in the pocket of your shorts or wetsuit or in a belt.
Because you have to wear shoes throughout the race, including during the swim legs, most swimrunners like to wear something to help them keep their feet up during the swims.
A favourite combination for Australian swimrun events is wetsuit shorts and a pull buoy.
Wetsuits are often worn in cooler climates, usually in races overseas in Europe and America. Here in Australia, most swimrunners wear neoprene wetsuit shorts but it is completely up to you as an individual swimrunner what you wear.
The more coverage the wetsuit has the more buoyant you will be in the water, but also remember that the more coverage you have also means the more heat your body will retain, which can make you hotter, especially on the runs.
If neoprene wetsuit shorts aren’t for you and you are after a wetsuit with more coverage, many brands now make swimrun-specific wetsuits. These will likely have a front zip making for easier breathing during the run legs and a pocket for storing a whistle and nutrition.
If you are going to race in a wetsuit be sure to take it for a few test runs before the event to make sure it doesn’t chafe, it’s easy to run in and not too restricting.
A pull buoy is a small float that sits between your legs while swimming to help float the lower half of your body and is often paired with hand paddles (see below).
It also helps to encourage a streamlined body position while stabilising the core which can help propel you through the water while saving your legs for the run portions of the race.
You might be wondering how you run with a pull buoy for your run legs. You can fasten your pull buoy to your body with a rubber cord or elastic straps and slide it to the outside of your leg for the run legs and the inside of your leg for the swim legs. Another option is to wear it on the small of your back as you run.
If you are going to race with a pull buoy, be sure to practice a lot in the pool, in the open water and on land to make sure you are fully comfortable and confident with your pull buoy before race day.
If you don’t want to wear wetsuit shorts or a pull buoy or maybe you just want that extra bit of buoyancy, calf socks are for you.
Many swimrunners wear calf socks for one of two reasons; (1) because they make your legs more buoyant in the water, and, (2) because they act as a supportive compression piece during your run legs.
There are two types of calf socks to choose from; the normal compression type with little to no buoyancy or buoyant calf socks that are made out of neoprene material. If you only have the normal compression type but are wanting more buoyancy for your swim legs you can insert foam or neoprene to help add more buoyancy.
You’ve gotten your floatation sorted now it’s time to add a piece of gear to help propel you through the water easier, especially if you are all decked out in gear which can make your swim legs slightly harder. For this, you can use hand paddles.
Hand paddles are a great way to propel you through the water especially when you are using a pull buoy because it helps to make up for the loss of power from not kicking.
Similar to your pull buoy, if you decide to use hand paddles you need to make sure you are comfortable running with them as well. Many swim runners use a carabiner clip and some rope to attach it to their bodies for the run legs, others tuck them into their swimsuit/wetsuit or simply carry them in their hands.
The key to using hand paddles during a swimrun race is to ensure you pick the right paddle size for your hand. You want your hand to cover the paddle with only a little room around the perimeter. You can choose to go up in size as you become stronger and more comfortable with paddles.
Before using hand paddles for a swimrun event ensure you train with them a lot in both the pool and open water to build up your strength and get your shoulders used to the extra pressure. When starting to use paddles build up slowly to ensure you don’t injure yourself or blow your shoulders out.
Goggles might seem like an obvious one for a swimrun event but some people prefer racing with no goggles.
Wearing goggles makes for easy sighting and clear vision during the swim legs and can help protect your eyes from cooler temperatures and salty water when the swim legs are in the ocean.
When choosing a pair of goggles make sure you pick a pair that fits your face well and doesn’t leak.
When hitting the run legs, simply tuck your goggles down your togs or into your vest until you reach your next swim leg.
Tow line or tether
Tow lines or tethers can be used by swimrun teams to help them stay together throughout the race, ensuring that they don’t get separated and disqualified (for straying more than 10m apart).
But, perhaps the primary reason a tether is used is for team members to assist each other during the race. The faster runner can pull along the other on the run legs and the faster swimmer can tow the other on the swim legs. It doesn’t need to literally pull/tow the other person, just the act of wearing the tether can motivate the slower person to keep up and keep going.
If you are going to race with a tow line or tether, be sure you practice before race day to work out the best way to connect it and race connected so you are fully prepared come race day.
In Swimrun Australia events, the maximum length of a tow line or tether is ten metres long.
Some swimrunners do, and some swimrunners don’t, like wearing socks to race.
Those who don’t like racing in socks believe it adds an extra layer of drag in the swim legs and can make your feet feel heavier when running. Loose socks can also cause chafing and blisters from rubbing during the run legs.
If you’re going to wear socks, choosei a thin pair to ensure they don’t soak up too much water and make sure you practice in them before race day.