Interview: Gary Pavitt - the man behind Swimrun Coniston

Originally created by Breca, Swimrun Coniston is a challenging but popular event. We spoke with Gary Pavitt of Gritty Rascal Events, which is bringing back this event and adding new distances for 2023. Tell us a little bit about Gritty Rascals Events and Swimrun Coniston.

Gary: I set up Gritty Rascals with the aim of running a series of Swimrun races, but this year we’re focusing on resurrecting the very popular Coniston Swimrun.

We have three distances, our 45 km Full course goes in and out of Coniston Water a few times before heading over Grisedale to Windermere where the 21 km Sprint course and 12.7km Short course join it. All the courses have swims there, in Rydal Water and finally in Grasmere, before the final run to the finish at Tweedies Bar in Grasmere.

SRW: Why did you decide to resurrect the Coniston race first?

GP: I have friends who ran this race in the past and another who helped to deliver it, so knowing how much they loved this event and having spent a lot of time in the Lake District, this was the race I had the biggest affinity with.

SRW: What did people like so much about this race?

GP: I think the key things are the atmosphere and the setting. The courses are all true to the original spirit of swimrun - an A to B race set in beautiful, rugged countryside and, particularly if doing the full course, a real challenge.

SWR: How will the Coniston race be different in 2023?

GP: We’ve tried hard to keep the best elements: we’re using the same format for our safety teams, the routes are broadly the same except for minor changes where access or safety advice has changed, we want to enhance the atmosphere and we’re trying to be even more sustainable.

The biggest change is that the races run together and are planned to finish at the same time, which means the cut-off times for the sprint and short courses are so generous that they’re accessible to anyone who can swim.

We also have solo entries on the full course for the first time and are offering online race briefings pre-race to help athletes with logistics and accommodation costs.

SRW: What are your goals for the event?

GP: I'd love to see our full course race re-establish itself as one of the must-do epic adventure races in the UK. For the sprint and short courses, it's to make swimrun accessible to as many people as possible, and leave them wanting to run the full course the following year, but mostly for everyone to leave safe with a huge grin and sense of accomplishment so they’ll want to come back and do it all again.

SRW: Would you like to take on any of the other previous Breca events?

Many people will know that Coniston used to be a Breca race and I had also looked at buying the Breca brand before deciding against it. You will have seen that the Breca brand was bought but subsequently the new owner announced they would not proceeding with events. Whether someone else will now take this forward remains to be seen.

Regardless, we have already started to plan a 4 race UK series in 2024, including potentially on the old Breca Gower course.

In the meantime, I hope the people who loved the original Breca races will embrace us and our versions. They should have a very familiar feel and hopefully we can make them even better.