Family duo, Chelsey and Nicky Bailey are the driving force behind the As Keen as Mustard (AKA) Swimrun races. Chelsey shares her thoughts with swimrun.com on how they have developed their Head UK Grass Roots Swimrun Series and on an exciting year ahead.
2022 will see a new mid-summer swimrun festival and the launch of a long course at their flagship race, the Nene Park Peterborough Swimrun. AKA Mustard Events operate on 4 locations supporting 17 race options and are supported by specialist swimrun distributor Fenland Runner.
How did you get into swimrun?
Nicky and Chelsey come from a triathlon background, both adventure hunters who fell in love with the sport immediately at their first race. They both actively race having completed the Mad Hatter Hokey Cokey and are just back from Spain and the Costabrava Swimrun. Chelsey is adamant that she wouldn’t race with anyone else other than Nicky.
What makes a good swimrun course?
According to Chelsey who coordinates the safety management at AKA races, it is all about the adventure. Having lots of transitions which are both challenging yet achievable. The beauty of swimrun is that there are no limits and no hard and fast rules on where you have to go. There is lots of scope to be creative and make each race a new and different adventure.
The other part of the enjoyment of swimrun compared to triathlon is that it isn’t all about the tenth of a second advantage. Every transition, every swim and every run is different. Conditions change so fast and there are so many variables. It would be great to watch on TV!
How would a trail runner or open water swimmer get into swimrun?
Easy. If you can breaststroke in open water and be able to slow jog or power walk, you can swimrun. Chat to the lovely swimrun community. There are lots of lovely swimrunners who are always game for helping new people in the sport. Go to an event and have a look, or offer to marshal to see what its about.
What was the first ever AKA Mustard Swimrun like?
Chelsey and Nicky launched their race series as there were no swimrun races for those starting out. There were no races for anyone who wanted to race solo and no races for anyone who didn’t want to do a marathon distance swimrun. In doing so, they have helped democratise the sport and make it more widely accessible.
AKA Mustard got slaughtered by the hard core swimrun community for putting on a 10km solo swimrun, the first in the UK. But every marathon/ultra runner would have started with a parkrun so why should swimrun be any less accessible?
Chelsey says that ‘we won’t say we told you so but…’ most organisers now offer up solo courses. The original will always be the team racing, conquering the elements with your partner. But solos and short course options are the only way we get the sport to grow.
How has AKA Mustard helped grow the sport?
To grow the sport you need to cater for everyone, from the weekend warrior to the elite.
The AKA Mustard 5km races (think the parkrun of swimrun), came about when John of Fenland Runner asked if where possible to encourage sprint athletes and people new to the sport. This is now offered at all AKA locations.
AKA Mustard added in a 21k Middling Mustard race to include the team element into our races and to give a chance to progress up the distances.
This year AKA are running a 39km full course monster. What can participants expect?
Beautiful English countryside, picturesque river and lake swims, epic trail running and challenging and exciting transitions. Check out the full course map on the AKA website.
What is the vibe at AKA races?
A friendly and a happy one. There are complete newbies to the elites at all AKA races with everyone gathering to chat and help each other on the course. All AKA races are fun and achievable whilst being competitive and professional.
Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to a first-time Swimrunner?
Just do it and don’t worry about the kit, or the speed. Just get round it, enjoy it and do it. Everyone will help you with guidance before the race but come and give it a go!