Don’t Forget to Swim: Why I don’t think Ironman should let the Swim be Optional

That’s advice I should take. I’ve been terrible at swimming these past few months.

And if you know me at all, you’ll know the swim isn’t my strength. My struggle from slow breast-stroker to average crawler was hard-won.

So when I heard about Ironman offering the option to skip the swim on some races and do a run in its place, I wasn’t thrilled.

You may think the bad swimmers would welcome this, but we, of all people, have so much more to gain by overcoming the swim.

I don’t love it because it’s easy, I love it because it’s hard! Really hard!

Ironman athletes exiting the water and running on a beach after a swim
Here I am, happy as ever, after finishing the swim in Pt. Elisabeth, South Africa, in 2018.

Ironman says they are making the swim optional in some races simply to accommodate many of the athletes who didn’t have access to pools or any swim training due to COVID-19.

But if so many people have been affected, aren’t they all even? If such a majority really hasn’t been able to swim recently, isn’t the playing field level?

I really believe this is more of a revenue generating ploy to get races filled. We all know that Ironman’s revenues haven’t been great lately, and money has to be a driver.

They aren’t doing a very good job of salvaging what little brand loyalty they may have left, especially after their CEO’s message that didn’t exactly win the brand any fans.

It’s not really hard to see that this was a risky move to do now, especially with waning brand sentiment and plenty of already-unhappy athletes.

I, for one, will never opt out of 1/3 of what I have trained for.

Update: I posted this on Facebook and quite a strong response of 45 comments.

The Facebook post above is in a members-only group so the link may not work for you if you’re not a member.

The vast majority strongly agreed with me. Others, rightly pointed out that the swim indeed could have been viewed as a liability to Ironman, and they were just being prudent. And tragically, the day after I posted this, indeed a swimmer in St. George drowned.

So, I do understand and feel that without knowing the situation of pools and swimmers in Europe, it’s hard for me to make a fair judgement.


This originally appeared in the 30 April 2021 newsletter.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Forget to Swim: Why I don’t think Ironman should let the Swim be Optional”

  1. I also think leaving the swim as optional is not good as Ironman is all about excelling in 3 sports and being really tough

  2. Very disappointed on the IM brand over past half dozens years. Expos are much smaller. Less swag not to mention the quality
    Would not work with clients during COVID. One more full and i’m done. Sticking with local races

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