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The Greatest Thing About Swimrun (Spoiler: It’s the Partner Part)

Having another person you’re tied to is the most unique aspect of Swimrun. So how do you find a Swimrun partner? This team shares their secrets.

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In this monthly Swimrun column, Chris Douglas and Chipper Nicodemus will be answering all of your Swimrun questions, starting today with the biggest one: How do I find a Swimrun partner? Chris and Chip, a swimrun team out of Northern California and hosts of the Low Tide Boyz – A Swimrun Podcast, introduce themselves here and set you on the partner path.

As a couple of triathletes who had been training buddies for years, raced every distance offered, and were frankly a bit burnt out with the sport, we found Swimrun. We thought it would be cool to mix it up, do one or two events, and then go back to our regularly scheduled Ironman programming. Instead, minutes into our first race and connected by a 10-foot tether, we fell in love with the quirkiness and magic of the sport and now devote a lot of our free time to helping Swimrun grow. (Too much time if you ask our wives.)

Ask anyone that identifies as a swimrunner and they will fire off a list of all the great things about the sport. The absolute greatest being: racing with a partner. (The second greatest is being able to travel to a race and not worry about your bike!) The magic of setting off with a teammate on a multisport adventure, while working to get from point A to point B, swimming from island to island and running across diverse landscapes, is hard to put into words. While it is slightly ridiculous to swim with shoes on, run through the woods in a wetsuit and holding paddles as goggles flop around your neck, all while being tethered together (this is optional), the sense of adventure you share with someone whose company you (hopefully) enjoy makes it all worth it. Every up, every down, every challenge is shared. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all shared between just you and your teammate while swimming and running and swimming and running and swimming and running.

Also there’s gear! Not as much gear as triathlon but enough to keep you geeked out. (We can talk about giant pull buoys all day!) The sport is young enough—only 15 years old—that there’s a wild west aspect to the race kit that’s fun too. We’ll get to all your questions about gear in future columns, but first: the partner.

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Why Do You Need A Swimrun Partner Anyway?

Simply put, to unlock the magic of Swimrun you have to have someone to share the experience with. (There are some races that have solo divisions, but we would recommend that you get a partner and race as a team in the original spirit of the sport.) As triathletes, we’re part of tri clubs and have training buddies, but at the end of the day, a triathlon is a solo time trial and camaraderie is paused during the race. Swimrun offers athletes a chance to take on a new challenge from a whole new lens: being part of a team. In Swimrun, two athletes are responsible for getting from point A to B together. No one is left behind and it’s your job to make sure that your partner finishes, just as it is theirs to make sure that you don’t go out too hard, dilly dally at the aid stations, bonk your brains out, or run off course. This means navigating unpredictable currents, technical trails, sketchy beaches, people’s backyards, and cold water. Sharing that journey, while solving problems, managing nutrition, and, of course, a lot of swimming and running makes having the right partner to share in the experience essential.

Since starting our Swimrun podcast, we’ve heard some amazing stories of teamwork and perseverance. Check out Episode 12 with Team Better Tethered Together for the finest/eye-opening example of “overcoming adversity” at its finest! (Warning: poop was involved.)

What Should I Look For In A Swimrun partner?

In our podcast episode about Swimrun partners, we came up with several elements that triathletes should consider when looking for a partner. The first and most important element is having similar race goals and being open and ready for adventure. If there’s an imbalance in expectations—for example, if one partner is trying to win the whole kit and caboodle and the other just wants to look at fish in the water—everyone is going to have a bad time. Similarly, if your prospective partner doesn’t have a decent tolerance for ambiguity and the unknown, then the adventure might turn into an ordeal. Swimrun events are unpredictable—the courses can often be longer or shorter than advertised, aid stations might not be where expected, course markings might be aspirational, or any other variables you can’t even imagine right now. If this doesn’t sound like a little bit of fun and adventure to you and your potential partner, then maybe the two of you should hold off on signing up for your first race. If you’re thinking “OK, Low Tide Boyz, tell me more,” then you’re halfway there!

The second thing to look for in a Swimrun partner is similar fitness level. This doesn’t mean that you swim and run in lockstep, which is actually rarer than you might think. But if there’s a gross imbalance in abilities, this could lead to a less than fun experience for both teammates. Triathletes in many ways are perfectly suited for the sport. They already swim, bike, and run and a Swimrun event might be the perfect early-season, mid-season, or late-season break, while using your fitness to go on an adventure. Having a similar fitness level also means you can train together more effectively. Swimrun requires some technique for swimming and running with a tether (if you’re into that) and transitioning from swim to run then back to swim and then to run again. Like with most things, practice is definitely helpful. It’s not essential though; some of the top teams in Europe live in different countries and meet up on race weekend to take care of business.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, can you stand this person for hours on end? Does every dad joke they make boil your blood? Having a complementary personality is a good thing in a Swimrun partner. We recommend racing with someone that you can chop it up with for an extended period of time. (We usually save our extra funny stories to share during a race, for extra fun.) The sport is still in its “grassroots phase” in the world, especially in the U.S., and there is such a welcoming and accepting vibe at events that finding this attitude in a partner helps you to really get the most out of the Swimrun experience.

Where Can I Find A Swimrun Partner?

The first place to look is your current training group or tri club, if you’re a part of one. We guarantee that there’s probably someone just as crazy as you, willing to travel without a bike (did we mention this is a glorious feeling?), and take on the adventure with you. Beyond that, there are a bunch of Swimrun Facebook groups you can tap into and even Swimrun race directors can help you find someone to race with. We are still working on a “Tinder for Swimrun Partners” idea, VC funding welcome.

Once you’ve found a partner, the most important thing is coming up with a really cool team name. Our team name “The Low Tide Boyz” came from a meme about gangster crabs. True story! Have fun with it and the rest of your Swimrun experience will take care of itself. (Except for training, you should actually train for these events.) We look forward to seeing you out there in a wetsuit with a zipper in the front, a massive pull buoy, dinner plate-sized paddles, and swimming with your shoes on.

Let us know what Swimrun question you have, as we’ll be tackling all the most common Swimrun topics in future columns.

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