Update 3 Aug 23: On 1 Aug 2023, Jonathan Littlewood announced that he would now no longer be taking the Breca brand forwards. See his full statement at the end of this interview.
Simon Griffiths spoke with Jonathan Littlewood, the new owner of the Breca Swimrun Brand
Breca Swimrun Jersey was my first swimrun event and remains one of my favourites. Breca Swimrun Gower was another fantastic race, although a little light on the proportion of swimming to running for those of us who are stronger in the water. I’d heard good things about Breca’s other events both in the UK and in New Zealand too. Breca was a swimrun brand with big ambitions and a vision to deliver challenging events in spectacular locations. Unfortunately, the company didn’t survive the covid pandemic and went into liquidation in December 2022.
Not only was this a financial loss to Breca’s investors and swimrunners who had paid up for events that could now not go ahead, it was a blow to the sport of swimrun, which was (and still is) a minority pursuit. But while most of us muttered our sympathies, shrugged our shoulders and moved on, Jonathan Littlewood decided to take action and bought the rights to the Breca brand.
Jonathan is a self-confessed swimrun superfan. He describes how he used to weigh 16.5 stone and struggled to run at all. His girlfriend kept dragging him out to run but after a couple of kilometres, he’d turn around and walk home. But eventually, he lost three stone and about 5 years ago, signed up for Ötillö Engadin, which was the first organised race he’d ever taken part in. He was immediately hooked. Swimrun became an important part of his life.
But why buy Breca? Jonathan’s background is in hospitality, not event management. What could he bring to the brand? He explains that, from a business perspective, there are a couple of similarities. “Event businesses, like catering ones, are often owner-operated and driven by passion,” he says. Jonathan believes that by applying business principles he’s learned through his work in hospitality, he can revive and grow the Breca brand.
Why not, I asked, start a new swimrun event brand instead? Good question, admits Jonathan. Buying the Breca name didn’t, for example, give him access to Breca’s email database of swimrunners as that is protected under GDPR. However, it did gain access to Breca’s social media channels, which have a reach second only to Ötillö. Despite the history, there is a lot of love for the Breca brand in the swimrun world. The feedback he’s received to date has been mostly positive and supportive.
It's notable that Breca’s relaunch event – Breca Urban X Liverpool – is unlike anything the company has done before. It’s a short format multi-round race in an urban setting, an idea copied from triathlon super-sprints. Jonathan’s aim is to create something “accessible, reasonably priced and spectator friendly”. It was also, he says, much quicker to set up than the events Breca has done historically – an important consideration given the time scale of his purchase of the brand and desire to get an event off the ground in 2023.
Does this mean Breca will no longer do long-format events? Not at all says Jonathan. “The big races are coming back too.” However, he didn’t want to do too much too soon, and the longer races require significantly more planning and organisation.
Finally, I wanted to know what becoming the owner of an event brand would mean for Jonathan as a participant. He suspects the demands of running a business will probably mean he won’t be able to race as much as he used to but, he says, “I’m happy to sacrifice a bit of racing if it helps the growth of the sport.”
Find out more about Breca’s new event at https://www.brecaswimrun.com/
Update: Jon Littlewood's statement from 1 August 2023
Jon here, owner of the newly relaunched Breca Swimrun.
When I took on the responsibility of relaunching the Breca brand in June, I was immensely excited to not only save a brand I am personally invested in as a competitor, but also be a part of furthering the development of this sport in the UK.
I remain committed to growing this exciting sport both in the UK and globally.
You may or may not be aware that I’m also the founder and major shareholder of swimrun.com, a digital online magazine covering all things swimrun. Our mission at swimrun.com is to grow the sport globally. An important component of that involves supporting industry stakeholders that of course includes the amazing events companies around the world that put on the great swimrun races you and I both love. After some feedback from those industry stakeholders, and internal discussions, we have decided that, in order to maintain the independence and trust we have fostered at swimrun.com, it would be best if I was not involved in a swimrun events company. That means I won’t be taking the Breca brand forward, which might unfortunately finally mean the end of Breca Swimrun. All the participants that registered for Urban X Liverpool have already been informed and refunded in full.