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In with a splash!

Twelve years ago Outdoor Swimmer contributing editor Jonathan Cowie swam his first open water event at the Great North Swim in Windermere. Where will your open water journey take you?

Do you remember your first open water swim event? Mine was the Great North Swim in Windermere twelve years ago. Although I had been a keen swimmer as a kid, I had never done anything like this before – swimming a mile in open water was a massive challenge. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous on the morning of event day!

I had signed up to the swim with two friends and had spent months training in the pool. Signing up with friends is great for motivation and a training partner will really help you prepare for the big day, whatever distance you sign up to.

As the Great North Swim has grown, so has the race distances on offer. There are now a range of distances to suit all ages and abilities from Swim250, Half Mile, 1 Mile, and 2 Miles to 5k and 10k challenges.

Although nerve wracking, standing on the start line with the rest of my wave taking in the amazing views of the Langdales in the distance was a pretty special experience –almost enough to make me forget my pre-race jitters.

Then we were off, my first open water race! Adrenaline kicked in and I swam with all my might – rookie error! Once I had calmed down a bit I could get into a good rhythm with my stroke and really enjoy the swim. Before I knew it I was coming to the last buoy and the finish line. My timing chip recorded my time as I ran over the mat – but results didn’t matter, I had just had the time of my life!

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I can honestly say that from that moment I was hooked on open water swimming. And look where it led me! Within five years I had changed my career to work at Outdoor Swimmer magazine. That first Great North Swim led to many amazing open water experiences around the world and many friendships made. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now, you never know what that one swim could lead to!

This summer I will be back at the Great North Swim, although this time as a local. Closing the loop on my open water journey, last year I left London and moved to the Lake District. Windermere is now my nearest lake and the waters where I swam my first Great North Swim are now where I take my daily dip. So come join the Lake District swim community at the Great North Swim this June. With distances to suit all abilities, it is an event that I keep coming back to. And it is not all about just swimming! I am tempted to try the swimrun event this year, and of course there is the event village complete with big screen, exhibitor stands, pop-up food stalls and music. Come say ‘hi’ at the Outdoor Swimmer stand! I can let you know the best places for coffee and cake and recommend some amazing wild swim spots so you can make the most of your trip to the Lakes.

Set yourself an open water challenge in the great outdoors at the UK’s biggest open water swim event. If you’re going to swim, make it a great swim! Sign up now.

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Choose your challenge

Great North Swim

10-12 June 2022

Swim250 – Perfect for beginners and younger swimmers

Half Mile – A great introduction to outdoor swimming

1 Mile – The classic Great North Swim distance!

2 Miles – Perfect if you are looking for a longer challenge

5k – For experienced swimmers looking to go further

10k – Take on the ultimate challenge!


Great North Swimrun

11 June 2022

Short – 12.6km

Middle – 23.9km

Endurance – 38.8km


Enter now at greatswim.org

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.