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Athletes race through Edmonton river valley at inaugural SwimRun race

WATCH ABOVE: The first-ever SwimRun race took place in Edmonton's Terwillegar Park on Sunday. The sport is growing in popularity and the Edmonton race is just one of the latest in Canada. Julia Wong reports.

Swim. Run. Swim some more. Then run some more. It’s like a triathlon, minus the cycling.

The sport of SwimRun was introduced to Edmonton on Sunday as its first-ever race took place in Terwillegar Park and through different parts of the North Saskatchewan River valley.

SwimRun started in Sweden in 2006 as a combination swim and run across an archipelago outside of Stockholm.

Its popularity has since grown, and there are now competitions throughout Europe and North America. SwimRuns are held in Victoria and Kelowna, B.C., and Kenora, Ont.

READ MORE: Calgary duo complete world-famous Otillo Swimrun in Sweden

Race Director Jason Britton wanted to introduce the emerging sport to Edmonton.

“To enjoy everything Edmonton’s river valley has to offer, the challenging running trails and cycling trails and then our river as an opportunity to enjoy what our river does offer for swimming,” he said.

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An athlete running towards the finish line at Edmonton’s inaugural SwimRun event on Sunday, August 4, 2019.
An athlete running towards the finish line at Edmonton’s inaugural SwimRun event on Sunday, August 4, 2019. Global News

The race involved six running loops, totalling 17 kilometres, and five swimming legs across the North Saskatchewan, totalling six kilometres.

“The athletes need to keep all their equipment with them. They’re swimming with their running shoes on. They’re running with their wetsuits on and moving back and forth between the two. It adds another element of challenge to what you’re doing,” Britton said.

Phil Wong and his partner cross the finish line at Edmonton’s inaugural SwimRun event.
Phil Wong and his partner cross the finish line at Edmonton’s inaugural SwimRun event. Julia Wong/Global News

Participant Phil Wong has done triathlons in the past but had never done a SwimRun before Sunday.

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“My buddy volun-told me. He’s like, ‘Yeah we should do it, it’ll be fun.’ So I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Wong said.

“It’s just different. I can’t say it’s easier or harder [than a triathlon]. It’s just different.”

Wong called SwimRun a “fresh, interesting new sport” and said switching back and forth between swimming and running was “nice.”

“You run and you warm up. You get to cool down once you hit the water. You get to save your legs. I use a pull buoy so I don’t have to kick. It saves your legs so you’re fresh when you start back on the run,” he said.

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READ MORE: Tyler Mislawchuk aims to build on success at triathlon event in Edmonton

There were 16 participants in the inaugural race – seven women and nine men – who could either run the race solo or as a team.

Britton, who expects to make the race an annual event, hopes to see 70 people next year.

WATCH: Calgary duo completes in world-famous Otillo Swimrun in Sweden in 2018

Calgary duo complete world-famous Otillo Swimrun in Sweden
Calgary duo complete world-famous Otillo Swimrun in Sweden