Despite wet and windy conditions, thousands of swimmers of all ages and abilities took on the challenge of the John West Great North Swim in the majestic surroundings of the Lake District - the UK’s biggest national park, last weekend from the 7th to the 9th of June.

Open water enthusiasts, aged from eight to over eighty were diving into the waters of Windermere to take on distances ranging from a beginners 250 meters all the way up to the gruelling 10km ‘marathon’ swim

For the third year running, the event also featured the increasingly popular SwimRun, an off road, open-water, island hopping adventure. Over 380 people were signed up to take part across the short, middle and endurance distances, which means the Great North SwimRun is now believed to be the biggest of its kind in the UK.

For the first time this year, John West was the title sponsor of the event. Jon Burton, International Marketing Director at John West Foods said, “John West is passionate about health and we're thrilled to be title of sponsor of the Great North Swim, to help inspire more people to consider taking up swimming as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.”

“Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand and our sponsorship of the event is just one way we'll be encouraging consumers to ‘Get Yourself Shipshape' and make more positive choices towards balanced lifestyles.  Enjoying fish as part of a nutritious, protein-rich diet is one of the little steps we can all take.”

This year the event celebrated swimmers defying stereotypes with the ‘Unexpectedly Great’ Campaign. Swimmers in the Great North Swim have been challenging expectations since the very first event in 2008.

They've shown that no matter what their body shape, level of fitness, whether or not they live with a disability or their age, you can complete a challenge in the open water.

In 2019 the event celebrated this incredible diversity and challenged the wider world's preconceptions of who an athlete is.  Amongst this group of amazing swimmers was Great Swim ambassador Sylvia Mac, a childhood burns survivor who endured third and fourth degree burns across her body as a result of an accident when she was just three years old.

Sylvia, from London, now campaigns to raise awareness of the challenges faced by those living with disfigurement and scarring. A keen swimmer in her youth, Sylvia recently launched fortnightly swimming sessions for to support people with disfigurements and skin conditions to feel more comfortable in the water.

The event was staged at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitors Centre. Swimmers, supporters and spectators alike enjoyed a host of activities and tasty treats across the weekend.

Alongside the venue’s on site cafes and restaurants, a number of local vendors were on site, offering everything from crêpes to Jamaican street food. Swimmers and their support crews made good use of the Bowness Bay Brewing beer and prosecco tent for those well-deserved post swim celebrations and to provide some much needed shelter from the elements on Saturday.

Entries into the 2020 Great North Swim are now open, for more information please visit greatswim.org/north