Ocean swimming has grown exponentially over the last decade especially over the pandemic years, which we love to see.
Instead of seeing just one or two ocean swims each weekend over summer, we are now seeing multiple events spread out all over the country from November to April.
With traditional ocean swims doing well, another related type of event – the run/swim – is also starting to show signs of growth.
If you’re wondering what a run/swim event is, we’ve got you covered, read on to learn what these events are and who they’re suited to. We also talk to some of Australia’s most prominent run/swim event organisers to see where they plan to take the sport in the future.
A traditional run-swim-run event is exactly what it sounds like, a run followed by a swim followed by a run. These events can also be referred to as aquathlons or biathlons and were likely born from the growth in triathlon and the tradition of surf lifesaving, where this format is a competitive event at surf carnivals.
One of the bonuses of a run/swim event is that you get to enjoy the local environment and sights both above and below the water.
Are you a swimmer who loves running? Maybe you just enjoy an adventure? If you are either one of these then a run/swim event is for you.
Participants who take part in these events love the variety and like to push their fitness and combine their land and water abilities.
Ultimately, a run/swim event is for everyone.
With two disciplines in a run/swim-style event, you’ll need to train for both.
A good place to start is with your weakest leg; if you’re more of a swimmer, start to build your running fitness. There are some great programs and apps out there such as Couch to 5km.
Couch to 5km does exactly what it says, it helps you go from the couch to running 5km, which will put you in great stead for a run-swim-run event. Plus, did you know that running is a great way to get fit and improve your ocean swimming?
If you’re more of a runner, then start to increase those km in the pool and open water.
A great way to combine training in both disciplines is to incorporate ‘ins and outs’ into your training, one of our favourite training methods here at oceanswims.com.
In’s and out’s is essentially what it’s called. You run into the surf (or open water), swim through the wave zone and out the back into the open water before swimming back through the wave zone, running up the beach before heading back out and repeating it all again.
Not only will ‘ins and outs’ help to get you run/swim race ready but they will also drastically improve your fitness and your ocean swimming ability in the wave zone.
We caught up with four Australian race directors offering run-swim-run-style events; Ty Dowker from Burleigh Swim Run, Rob Battocchio from Splash Wollongong, Michael Scroop from RunSwim Coogee Aquathon, Andre Slade from Swimrun Australia to get their thoughts on how they have seen run-swim-run events grow over the years and where they plan to take their events into the future.
Ty Dowker (Burleigh Swim Run): Gold Coast, Australia & even the world have seen a dramatic increase in run-swim and run-swim-run events over the last decade but more importantly over the last two years since the impact of COViD.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to look for alternative ways to stay active and enjoy outdoor activities while maintaining social distancing guidelines. With many public pools and indoor facilities closed due to the pandemic, people have been forced to explore outdoor options like creeks and the ocean which they have continued to swim in post-pandemic. We have also found an indivisible being biting at the bit to get into new and old events to challenge themselves and have a sense of community connection.
Rob Battocchio (Splash Wollongong): I have seen a huge growth in the newer swim-run style events, coming from Europe. Though aquathlons and biathlons have been around for years and were very popular in the late 1990’s given the popularity of triathlons and surf lifesaving.
I started my own Aquathlon event, the Australia Day Aquathon at Wollongong in 1999 with around 200 people which grew to over 1,800 by 2018. Sadly many biathlons have come and gone, so it’s been great to see new interest building in all varieties of swim/run events. Especially coming off the heavy impacts of covid and East Coast weather events, it is positive to see lots of people keen to swim/run and try a new event.
Michael Scroop (RunSwim Coogee Aquathon): We are only in our 2nd year of running our new RunSwim Coogee Aquathlon event, having had to cancel in 2020 and 2021. The level of interest has been incredible and not just locally either, we’ve had competitors come from regional NSW and even interstate.
Andre Slade (Swimrun Australia): When the sport of swimrun was introduced to Australia in 2016 via the Sydney East event, it was an instant hit, selling out for four years in a row before the pandemic.
There just hasn’t been that many swim/run type events, so as we get more of them on the calendar; aquathlons, run-swim-runs, swimruns, they’ll start to become more mainstream and we’ll see more people participating.
TD (Burleigh Swim Run): The best things participants love about swim run events are the ability to take on a personal challenge (self-success – motivation and accountability for their training), the community engagement of the event (community connection), low pressure to perform or participate, enjoyment and fun.
RB (Splash Wollongong): Swim/run events are fun, easier than triathlons, widely accessible and a fun challenge. I find the crowd is way more relaxed than in triathlon events, and there’s a mix of participants from swimmers, to triathletes, surf club, general fitness people to even cross-fitters which creates an atmosphere.
With swim/run events you get a great workout and challenge and don’t need to have a bike and all the logistics of planning a triathlon. I also find many first-timers in my events have never swam in the open water and feel it’s a safer option than ocean swims in the surf.
MS (RunSwim Coogee Aquathon): Whilst many of our entrants last year were ocean swimmers, a large percentage are runners and triathletes. Overall it was a different demographic from what we are used to with the Coogee Island Challenge ocean swim and the atmosphere on Coogee’s Promenade at the build-up to the start was electric.
We received dozens of amazing feedback after our last event with a highlight being; “A group of us from the Gold Coast came down to participate and we all agreed it was a fabulous day and it encapsulated everything that we love – a fun yet challenging run, ocean swimming and the extra adventure element of the swimming with shoes on. We are regular ocean swimmers but this event was next level and we absolutely loved it!”
AS (Swimrun Australia): Swimrun and run-swim-runs in general have opened up open water swimming to runners who might have been put off by longer distance swims, the multiple shorter swims are more achievable.
For triathletes, these events are a great stepping stone into the 3-leg event, easily accessible and great for training, especially as it has become harder for race directors to get access to roads for the cycle legs of triathlons.
And, for swimmers, they offer a new challenge and allow them to enjoy the local scenery more, instead of having their heads down in the water the whole time!
TD (Burleigh Swim Run): I am always thinking of ideas and plans for some awesome events in the future but unfortunately they take a lot of planning and energy in which I’m a little time-poor at the moment. You never know what could be around the corner in the coming years.
RB (Splash Wollongong): My passion is aquathlon events, the traditional swim-run format and I’d like to explore more options to bring more people into the sport. South Sydney would be a good option to explore. Let’s get more swimmers to the swim-run fun I say!
MS (RunSwim Coogee Aquathon): We see the RunSwim Coogee event providing a significant opportunity for growth as it’s a unique concept, fun, new and exciting for so many.
AS (SwimRun Australia): We’re going to be adding more swimrun events across Australia, focusing on what we’re calling ‘urban swimruns’, which are located in scenic areas of the bigger cities and easily accessible regions. We will be looking for that epic remote location as well, as that’s at the heart of the sport.
We’re also looking to share the Australian Swimrun Championships around the new events, and perhaps even add a series. All our events will have a short course and a long course so anyone can have a go and challenge themselves at their own level.
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