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Aquaticrunner: The Global Swimrun Sensation Born In Italy Which Champions The Individual Format

Aquaticrunner, the host race of the Individual World Championship (IWC) in in Grado and Lignano and voted the overall ‘2022 swimrun race of the year‘ returns for its tenth edition. The course is fast and furious, with elite athletes completing a 27km course and 19 transitions as quickly as they can.

The race has an interesting history, one of the first ‘swimrun’ style races outside of Sweden and on a course which although on the same route each year can change dramatically. While the name ‘swimrun’ has boomed in popularity, ‘Aquaticrunner’ was used to describe the discipline of run, swim, repeat that we now commonly know as swimrun.

First organised in 2014, competition is fierce with last year’s race came down to sprint finish with just one second separating first and second place. It is a true celebration of international competition with qualifying races on four continents: Africa, North & South America and Europe. Swimrun.com interviewed founder and Race Director, Matteo Benedetti to find out more.

Aquaticrunner’s Matteo (Left) & Swimrun.com’s Fred (Right)

What is the swimrun community like in Italy?

Swimrun is still relatively small in Italy but growing fast. Aquaticrunner was the first swimrun style race to come to Italy in 2014. Since the early years, the cooperation between the different race organisers has been strong with a meeting in Verona in 2016 the genesis of the Italian Swimrun Series with 7-8 races across the whole of Italy. It is growing!

How was Aquaticrunner born?

Matteo and a friend Francesco Degan came up with their own island to island concept over 5 sand islands, these are remote islands inside a heavily protected National Park where the sea meets a gigantic lagoon. Outside of swimrunners visiting each year, not much is seen apart from the birds and other inhabitants of the nature reserve.

The 5 sand islands which divide the sea from the lagoon is an area very sensitive to tidal patterns as the lagoon can be empty depending on the tidal cycle creating a surging tide that either benefits or hinders participants. This along with changing weather conditions presents a unique and different problem for athletes to overcome every year.

Bringing on the first ever race was difficult, with many consultations held with local and regional authorities and their continued support has been key to the long-term success of the race.

Those early years

The first edition saw 70 participants of high performing athletes, of which 40 had been on podiums and the remaining 30 accrued points through a ranking qualification. Fast forward a year and 200 participants lined up on the start line. Remember, this was a completely new concept and this was explosive growth.

The rules in the early years were a little different such as a ban on hand paddles. Aquaticrunner like many early organisers of swimrun, adapted to the evolving nature of sport with paddles and pull buoys now permitted equipment.

Interestingly Matteo bucks the trend when talking about flotation and thinks it is better to use calf guards over the pull buoy. For faster athletes, he thinks it is more convenient and appropriate for a quick race. 

All photos by Tiziano Faggiani

Aqauticrunner goes international

Aquaticrunner has really nailed its credentials as an international competition and you can qualify in four continents and also in races outside of swimrun. For example, the first race to become a qualifying race in 2017, eXtremeMan from Hungary is a triathlon. It sets an intriguing example to the swimrun community on how to reach new audiences. 

While there are lots of stakeholders involved in making Aquaticrunner a success, Patrick Tomeda who heads up the international relations has been a key pillar of the international expansion and profile.

Qualifying races

Here are the qualifying races for Aquaticrunner:

What can participants expect?

A fantastic landscape in a natural setting and a very different style of race to North European swimruns. It is a very fast race, crossing 5 incredible islands and all hosted in a protected natural place. The atmosphere is friendly and congenial, lots of people come back to Aqauticrunner year on year and there are many familiar faces mixing it up with the new.

Hardest part of the course?

You run into the sun and it really depends on how much water is in the lagoon which can give either very soft or hard sand to run on. Hard sand is obviously a good surface and soft sand is extremely energy sapping.

Any course specific advice?

Most who do Aquaticrunner are experienced in swimrun or multi sport races, they need to be in order to have qualified for the competition. To prepare properly, Matteo thinks work must be done in the sand, the softer the better! Aqauticrunner returns on 23rd September 2023.

Fred Newton

Fred is the Editor and co-founder of swimrun.com. He has actively been involved with the sport of swimrun as an enthusiastic participant, race director, volunteer and journalist.

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