Posted by: kellietris | February 8, 2011

Pigs don’t fly, and swimmers don’t run.

I pulled into the parking lot of the pool last night and found a crowd of high school swimmers having a snowball fight on the playground. In their bathing suits, of course.

Swimmers are a unique bunch. We often smell like chlorine and eat obscene amounts of calories when we’re in season, and are way too comfortable with bleached hair and wearing nothing but lycra, but there is another very common characteristic that brings us all together: we can’t run to save our lives.

This wasn’t a problem for me or most of my friends through high school and college… why would we ever want to go running when we have the little black line to follow on the bottom of the pool for hours on end? Then, triathlon entered our lives.

Triathlon is dominated by runners. It’s a math game. A great swimmer may finish five minutes ahead of s runner in a sprint triathlon. If the swimmer runs 10-minute miles, that lead is completely gone if the runner runs at a 8:30 pace. In an ironman distance race, a 25 minute lead after the swim can be erased in the marathon with just a 1:00 difference in mile pace. Swimming speed is helpful to win races, but running speed is necessary.

So the obvious solution: run faster! Easier said than done for a swimmer. We spend years learning to perfect our strokes and get faster in the water. When we’re taken out of the pool and told to run, nine times out of ten it ain’t pretty. Our bodies are trained to work horizontally, with buoyancy and little impact. Flexibility in the ankles is a great asset for a swimmer’s kick, but a hindrance for running efficiently.

I’ve heard people say swimming is an art, while running is a natural activity. I understand swimming as an art, but running is not natural to everyone!

New Year's Day 2011

One of these things is not like the others.


It is easy for a runner to make huge improvements in swimming when they are starting out, just by improving mechanics. Simple drills and repetition, a couple times a week. I’ve seen it happen as I’ve coached many beginner triathletes.

Running is not so easily improved. for being a ‘natural activity’, those of us who are not gifted in the ways of grace on land have a hard time dropping time off our run.

Personally I have a mental battle with running. I don’t know where people get enjoyment from it! Whether I’m running outside or inside (especially inside), all I can do is watch the tenths of miles click by and hope it’s over soon. I don’t have this problem in the pool, even during a vigorous workout. It’s not about pain, or even boredom. I just don’t enjoy the act of running. It’s something I’ll probably lament about on this blog on more than one occasion in the future, and I apologize for that. If you have any suggestions, please share!

My longstanding hatred for running (this has been a lifelong sentiment) has led many people to ask me why I do it. If i hate it so much, why do I keep trying? And that’s just it. Triathlon.

The subject of why I do triathlons is definitely material for a blog entry in itself, if not more than one. I’ll leave that for next time.

Until then, anyone care to share? What enjoyment do you get out of running? What’s the rush, the motivating factor for you?

Help a swimmer out 🙂




  1. Dear Kellie

    As a former-but-never-good swimmer, I learned to love running. And I dreaded doing my first triathlon which, if you recall, you roped me into. But now I am wicked excited about doing another one. So here’s the deal: you should motivate me to swim better, and I will motivate you to run better. And together we will place one-two (you’ll be one, of course) in the Tri for a Cure on July 31, 2011. Ok, that’s unrealistic, but I can dream, right?

    Sending good running thoughts your way!

  2. […] Thursday morning, three days. I’m heading to New York. Getting there a day early, checking in on Friday. Two days. I know the swim is going to be awesome, if warm. Nothing I can’t handle in my element. After facing the hills of the Raymond loop, and riding the course at our IMLP training camp, I know that I can physically handle the 112-mile bike course. The run is going to suck, but that’s just because running always sucks. […]

  3. This is actually very funny to see this issue from diferent perspective. I started swimming regularly under coaching year ago because of triathlon. Its funny to believe you can improve more easily in swimming than running. I know example of guy who started to run after age 20 and five years later he made olympic marathon limit, but with swimming you never get competitive in that age not even to 11 years old girls who swim which is big diference. When I see some competitive swimmers I can see how it must be struggle for them to run (flat foots, long arms).

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