Our History

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Swimathon is proud to be the world’s largest annual fundraising swim. Originally devised as a swimmer recruitment and retention programme for local authority facilities, Swimathon is at the heart of many swimming pools’ annual promotion and marketing campaigns. More than 45% of Swimathon participants increase their training in preparation for the event, leading to increased visits for pools as well as a boost to the health and fitness of the swimmers taking part.

The story of Swimathon began in 1986 as an initiative of pool managers in London. Aiming to replicate the success of the London Marathon, the pilot event strove to encourage Londoners to take up regular exercise and inspire swimmers to use their local swimming pools to train for the challenge of 5,000 metres. In 1988, Swimathon took the nationwide form for which it is now known.

In 2017, key figures from the world of swimming attended a reception at the House of Lords, Westminster to celebrate 30 years of Swimathon. The Lord St John of Bletso welcomed guests from across the sporting spectrum to celebrate the achievements of this extraordinary event.

Guests that attended the reception included senior influencers from the swimming industry and charity sector, Sport England, Members of Parliament, Lords and participants and organisers from Swimathon, School Swimathon and Open Water Swimathon.

The Swimathon Foundation Chairman, Anthony Kendall OBE said, “It has been an incredible evening welcoming guests who have supported Swimathon over the years. We are very proud that since the Swimathon Foundation was founded in 1997 we have helped more people get into swimming, raised millions for great good causes and contributed £1million to swimming through our Community Grants Scheme.”

For most of its 34-year history, Swimathon has enjoyed the stability provided by a title sponsor; BT throughout the 1990s and then Butlins, for three years at the start of the 2000s. In 2001 The Swimathon Foundation was formed to help guarantee the long-term future of the event, and since 2005 Swimathon has continued to grow stronger year on year with no title sponsor.

Essential to its success has also been the involvement with many of the UK’s major charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support, NSPCC, Marie Curie, The British Heart Foundation, the Prince’s Trust and Sport Relief, who have taken part in Swimathon and helped fundraise over £50 million over the years.