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WAB Learns

G06: PHE Endurance Athletes: ENDURANCE SWIMMING

G6 PHE Unit

Open Water and Marathon Swimming

Open water swimming offers the purest form of racing, where athletes are racing against their fellow competitors and not the clock. Race strategies, along with the conditions, are constantly changing which makes adaptability a key skill. Each race varies in length and course design, especially at the local level.

The FINA defines two different categories:
-    OPEN WATER SWIMMING shall be defined as any competition that takes place in rivers, lakes, oceans or water channels except for 10km events.
-    MARATHON SWIMMING shall be defined as any 10km event in open water competitions.

Olympic Marathon Swimming

  • Olympic debut = Official event at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China 
  • 25 competitors (male and female)
  • 10 km race
  • Touch pannel to finish race
  • Referees help with judging race
  • Officals on water to support swimmers in case of emergency
  • Water temperature 16 to 31 degrees celsius (safety)

Competition Examples

  • German Open Water Championships (2,5km / 5km / 7,5km / 10km / 3x1,25km
  • USA national events (5km / 7.5km / 10km / 25km)
  • FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series (10km)
  • FINA UltraMarathon Swim Series (15km)
  • Olympic Marathon Swimming (10km)

Wild Swimming

Wild swimming is, to all intents and purposes, going swimming outside in a natural pool of water. That pool might be at a bend in a river, or it might be the sea. The important thing is that there are no man-made structures. You decide if you want salt water or fresh water. It’s the kind of activity that an older generation would roll their eyes at and say, “When I was your age, that was just called swimming!” And they wouldn’t be wrong.

Swimming in rivers and lakes is very popular in Europe, although wild swimming has become a bit of a buzz word in the UK (rather like wild camping). Not that that means we don’t think it’s a fun thing to jump in a cold tarn or dash into the ocean. In Europe, it’s very normal to see people floating down the wide Swiss rivers in the summer, with specially made float bags, or going for their morning swim in the local river. In the UK it seems to be more of a solitary sport. A way to head out for a quiet bit of personal time with nature… and probably a chance to get very cold!

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Ice Swimming

When the temperatures drop below freezing, the water reaches bone-chilling temperatures, and lakes begin to freeze over, swimmers flock to the water for a swim…with no wetsuits.

They cut a hole in the ice and lower themselves into the water, enjoying a few moments of tranquility as the snow falls around them. They must be crazy, right?

Maybe. But swimming in freezing cold water — called ice swimming — actually has tons of benefits!

Before we dive in, a quick disclaimer: Never go ice swimming alone, and talk to your doctor before you go for your first cold water dip. Better safe than sorry!

Ice swimming has been popular all over the world for thousands of years. There’s a record of cold water swimming in the United Kingdom from back in the first century! 

And in Russia, people have been ice swimming since at least the 1500s! In Russia and other countries where Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a dominant religion, some people go ice swimming to celebrate the Epiphany.

In Nordic countries like Finland, ice swimming is a huge part of day-to-day life. Swimmers will go for a quick dip in the icy ocean, followed by a relaxing trip to the sauna to warm up!

Let’s get one thing straight, though: Ice swimmers aren’t swimming long distances in the freezing water. For most ice swimmers, their daily swim is no more than a short dip! Most people begin with just a few seconds, working their way up to 30 seconds or a minute. They might swim in a short circle and hop out to warm up. Over time, the body becomes more acclimated to the cold water, and they’re able to handle longer swims. It’s just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one.

For more extreme swimmers, the International Ice Swimming Association officiates ice swimming races! These races are either 1 kilometer or 1 mile. To be an official ice swimming event, the water must be 5 degrees Celsius or colder. That’s 41 degrees Fahrenheit!

So what does it feel like to go ice swimming? As you ease your body into the water, the cold might take your breath away! 

At first, your skin will feel prickly. Your hands and feet might even feel like they’re burning. After a while, your body will acclimate and your hands and feet may start to go numb. Then, you might feel a sudden rush of warm tingles, and you’ll start to feel amazing!


A triathlon is an endurance multisport race consisting of swimming, cycling, and running over various distances. Triathletes compete for fastest overall completion time, racing each segment sequentially with the time transitioning between the disciplines included.
The word is of Greek origin, from τρεῖς or treis (three) and ἆθλος or athlos (competition).

The sport has its roots in multi-event races held in France during the 1920s, with more specified rules and races forming during the late 1970s as sports clubs and individuals developed the sport. This history has meant that variations of the sport were created and still exist, it also lead to other three stage races to use the name triathlon despite not being continuous or not consisting of swim bike and run elements.

Triathletes train to achieve endurance, strength, speed, requiring focused persistent and periodised training for each of the three disciplines, as well as combination workouts and general strength conditioning.

Competition Examples:

  • Kids of Steel/Ironkids – Swim 100 to 750m / Cycle 5 to 15km / Run 1 to 5km
  • Super Sprint – Swim 400m / Cycle 10km / Run 2,5km
  • Novice - Swim 400m / Cycle 20km / Run 5km
  • Sprint - Swim 750m / Cycle 20km / Run 5km
  • Olympic - Swim 1,5km / Cycle 40km / Run 10km
  • Triathlon 70.3 - Swim 1,9km / Cycle 90km / Run 21,1km
  • Ironman - Swim 3,8km / Cycle 180km / Run 42,9km

Swim / Run

A Swimrun is a multiple-stage competition which involves participants running and swimming over a race course that involves multiple swim and run stages. Typically participants do not change clothing in transitions as in other multi-sports such as triathlon. All equipment used by participants has to be carried all the way to the finish line.

What defines a swimrun is that its always carried out outdoors and in water where the goal is to go from a starting point to a finish point through a course with at least two swim and two run sections. All the equipment that a participant starts with has to be carried all the way to the finish line, meaning swimming needs to be done with shoes. Even though swimrun urges participants to use flotation equipment, equipment larger than 100×60 cm is not allowed. Swimming with shoes makes the kick fairly inefficient and breaststroke not so suitable. The flotation equipment keeps the legs at surface meaning a good crawl position can be maintained without kick.

Because of safety measures a swimrun competition is usually carried out by teams but there are several races where you can race individually. There are three classes to compete in; either a men's class, women's class or a mixed gender class.

Given that swimrun takes place outside in natural surroundings, there are no standards in terms of how far the total run and swim should be. There is also no rule on the ratio between the swim and run distances. There is also no set minimal or maximal distance of the individual swim or run segments. SwimRun organisers are free to select suitable area's similar to cross-country races in running.

Competition Examples:

  • Super Sprint – less than 10km
  • Sprint – 10 to 20km
  • Regular – 20,1 to 40km
  • Long – 40,1 to 75km
  • Ultra – more than 75km
  • Multiday – over 24 hours