SwimRun Challenge a hit at PenFinancial flatwater centre

Laura Barton

By Laura Barton, Tribune Staff

The common sentiment as participants swam to the finish line and hauled themselves out of the water onto the dock at the PenFinancial Credit Union Flatwater Community Centre was that they had a ton of fun.

Saturday was Welland’s first SwimRun Challenge and Open Water Swim competition, which drew 41 competitors. The event had three components: a 2.5-kilometre swim, a five-kilometre swim and an 8.2-kilometre SwimRun. The SwimRun, as it sounds, featured both swimming and running, but alternated back and forth between the two sports as opposed to completing one for one part of the race and then doing the other for the remainder.

Stephen Gentles, a Dundas, ON resident, was one of eight participants in the SwimRun Challenge. He came in first place, clocking in at one hour, 17 minutes and 45 seconds, and when he came out of the water he said he’d for sure do it all over again.

“More people should definitely do this sport,” he said.

For the SwimRun, participants are allowed to use aids, such as hand paddles and pull buoys, but the catch is whatever they start with at the beginning, they must have with them when they cross the finish line.

Gentles had both hand paddles and a pull buoy, a flotation device that swimmers can put between their legs; he had his strapped to his leg and turned it to the outside of his leg when he ran. He also worse running shoes, which he said worked surprisingly well despite being water logged each time he came out of the water.

The event started with a swim, which he said felt really good, as did the subsequent run, but getting back into the water a second time was harder until he got settled into the swim again.

Before this event, he had done both running and swimming, but never anything like this.

Ian Feldman, owner of Canaqua Sports, which hosted the event, said he hopes more people participate in this unique sport in the coming years. This year’s SwimRun was one he’s calling a “lite” distance as typically they are much longer, such as one the organization hosted in Sudbury that was 19 kilometres. The idea was to introduce people in this area to the sport and cultivate interest.

Although there were a few hiccups, he said he’s happy with how the day went and is excited to bring it back to Welland.

Also during the day were two the two open water swimming races, which participants also really enjoyed.

One participant was 84-year-old Torontonian George Milne, a regular at swimming events. He finished the 2.5-kilometre race with a time of one hour, 15 minutes and six seconds. Milne said Saturday it was his ninth race of the summer and his twelfth race in Welland overall.

He said he has a big background in competitive swimming.

“I’m not as fast as I used to be. I was a University of Toronto swimmer in 1958 and ’59,” he said. “Not a star, just one of the swimmers.”

He said he first got his feet wet when he was four years old though and has really enjoyed swimming ever since. Nowadays, it’s somewhat of a love-hate relationship since he said sometimes he experiences carpal tunnel type issues with his hands while swimming.

“The best part is when it’s over, let’s face it,” he joked, feeling a bit of the cooler weekend weather once he was out of the water.

He said of Saturday’s race that there was a bit of chop to contend with, which made it a bit more challenging. He felt the PenFinancial flatwater centre was a nice venue for the event though.

Feldman invites anyone interested in the SwimRun or other races hosted by Canaqua Sports to visit

Twitter: @LBartonTribune 

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