Should swimming events involve running? Unless it’s part of a triathlon, obviously not… right?
Yet often, they do! You won’t see any running at the Olympic 10K open-water event. In Beijing, competitors started by jumping off a floating platform, and finished by slapping a floating touchpad. At sub-elite level events, though, it’s fairly common to both start and finish on a beach.
Of the six open-water events on my summer itinerary, only two - the 2-mile Cable swim in Virginia and the 6K in Colorado - have in-water starts and finishes. The rest will require negotiating a stretch of sand at some point. The Columbus Open-Water Swims start and finish on the beach.
This matters to me because I have a hip replacement and am really not supposed to run, ever. Do the few seconds I lose on a beach-start really matter in a 20, 30, or 60-minute race? Sure, it matters less in a longer race, but actually yes, it does matter.
It’s not just the time lost entering the water, but also the time lost from poor positioning. If I’m near the end of the pack off the start, I may be only 5 seconds behind the leaders right then, but by time I’ve clawed my way through the slower swimmers, I might be 20 seconds behind. It matters.
And my disadvantage is relatively minor. What would Fat Rabbit Racing (organizers of the C.O.W.S. races) say if one-legged Olympian (not just Paralympian, mind you - Olympian) Natalie du Toit showed up at their event? That she’s shit outta luck?
Granted, there are costs - financial and operational - associated with in-water finishes. But in-water starts are actually pretty simple.