Swimrun Coniston Race Preview: Where Swimrunners Must Embrace The Spirit Of The Herdwick Sheep

Nestled in the heart of the UK’s Lake District is the longest, hilliest and one of the most scenic domestic courses, Swimrun Coniston. The region is made up of beautiful natural inland lakes, rugged mountains and a verdant green landscape which supports a particularly tough breed of sheep; called Herdwicks. These sheep range high on the fells, endure wind and rain and occasionally come down to lowland pastures.

Swimrunners will need to embrace their inner-herdwick to take on a 45km classic (6.5km swim / 38.7km run) which has over 1km vertical climbing. The organisers also offer a more civilised 21km option (3km swim and 18km run) and a scenic 12km (1.9km swim & 10.4km run). The latter has a relaxed 7 hour cut-off and with the longest swim at 780m, meaning anyone can give it a go.

Swimrun Coniston is fronted by IT professional and business mentor Gary Pavitt. He isn’t all computers and is an outdoorsman through and through, often found wandering in the hills or exploring his love of water, specifically the sea. He was introduced to the sport by friends and has quickly immersed himself in the world of tethers, pull buoys and paddles.

What makes a good swimrun course?

Having a point to point journey. All courses at Swimrun Coniston have an A to B style route through stunning environments that brings us as close to nature and makes it like an adventure. This is what really sets swimrun races apart from many other multi-sport events. 

We have to balance the course design with many many considerations when planning a course: access, safety and even the ability to have contingency routes so we can reroute without having a dramatic impact on the event. Pleasant weather for example, is not exactly guaranteed in the UK although Gary remains optimistic that September will bring glorious autumnal sunshine.

What are some of the highlights of the Swimrun Coniston course?

It’s quite subjective, but the Lake District National Park is such a beautiful part of the UK, so we’re very fortunate to be able to put on a course here with multiple race distances that meander through such a variety of environments. It’s definitely a course to keep your head up and take in the views.

What will conditions be like for competitors?

It’s so dependent on the weather leading up to and on the day. We chose a date that on average should provide good conditions – hopefully early enough to avoid autumn storms, not too hot for running in a wetsuit and the water should still be a refreshing 14 degrees (at least that has been the average in September over the last few years).

Many of the lakes are becoming ecologically dead with invasive species. Should swimrunners be racing through multiple water bodies?

We’ve taken on board the Check, Clean, Dry measures to prevent introducing invasive species from outside the area and any spread between the different bodies of water. We’ll inspect the athlete’s kit to ensure it’s clean and dry before the race starts and while all our swims are already linked by rivers, we still take precautions with athletes transitioning between the lakes, essentially as the athletes complete their last swim in each water body they experience biosecurity protocols, in essence a wash down before continuing.

What is the atmosphere like?

Our team is full of experienced operators and we’re looking to create a supportive and inclusive atmosphere with a little splash of Gritty Rascals’ fun added to the mix. We expect to see faces full of nervous excitement at the start and lots of tired but happy faces at the finish line, where everyone will rightly be proud of their achievement.

How important do you think solo entry options are for swimrun?

There’s clearly a demand for solo entries as currently more than a third of our entrants are solo. I believe all competitors will look out for each other despite racing and our robust safety plans take solo entries into consideration.

What would be your one top tip or piece of advice for a first-time swimrunner?

That’s a great question, I think probably to train & practise your transitions from swim to run and vice versa (it’s not just getting in and out of the water but how and when you adjust all your kit) using the gear you intend to use in the race so you can overcome any potential issues ahead of race day while you have time to try and test any solutions. 

We have a series on a beginner’s journey to Swimrun Coniston following Rob, who’s in this exact position, and being mentored by experienced swimrunner Sam Scott. Sam’s helping Rob with everything from what swimrun is, to equipment, transitions, nutrition – hopefully everything you’d need to know. 

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You can find out more about Swimrun Coniston here.

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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