The great lakes and particularly Lake Ontario has a long and rich history of marathon swimming. It is one of the original homes of marathon swimming in the world, along with other such historically significant marathon swimming mecca’s as the English Channel and the Catalina Channel.
Marathon swimming in Lake Ontario started with the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The CNE officially started in 1879 and swimming races during the CNE became one of the most popular attractions. Over the years there were various races of different distances, one of the first heroes of marathon swimming was George Young. In 1927, chewing gum magnate and owner of the Chicago Cubs, wanted to attract attention to his new island off the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island. So he decide to hold a race from Catalina to Los Angeles and offered $25,000 to the winner! 55 people started the race and only one finished, the veteran of many CNE races, Canadian, George Young.
However, it wasn’t until 1954 when the CNE offered the world-famous American marathon swimmer, Florence Chadwick, $10,000 if she could be the first person to swim across the Lake. An unheralded, 16 year old Canadian named Marilyn Bell also joined in the attempt although was not offered the prize. And in what became one of the greatest moments in Canadian and marathon swimming history, Chadwick did not complete the 51.5 km / 32.2 mile swim… but Bell did. In a time of 20 hours and 59 minutes. She became a national hero and a world famous marathon swimmer.
Despite the glorious past and historic roots of marathon swimming in Lake Ontario, it has not prospered. Although at one time completing a Lake Ontario Crossing was held in equal regard with The English Channel and the Catalina Channel, it has since languished. The English Channel has had well over 1100 swimmers complete the swim and Catalina Channel has had over 250 swimmers complete the swim. Even the relative late-comer to the game, the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, now has dozens of people per year circumnavigating the island, with a long waiting list. While Lake Ontario has had only 54 swimmers complete 66 swims across the Lake in the 60 years since Marilyn Bell first completed the swim in 1954.
While a Lake Ontario Crossing is certainly as daunting of a feat of endurance and possibly even a harder swim than many of its peers, the main reason that more people have not attempted a Lake Ontario Crossing is because of the logistics required by the existing governing body and lack of equipment and assistance provided, including the boats necessary for the Crossing.
As such a new governing body has been created, called the GREAT LAKES CROSSING ORGANIZATION (GLCO). The goal of GLCO is to provide everything that is necessary for a swimmer to attempt a great lake crossing. This includes a safe, logistically friendly and globally recognized way for swimmers from anywhere in the world to come and attempt one of the greatest marathon swims in the world!
The Great Lakes Crossing Organization (GLCO) was created by members of the Lake Ontario Swim Team (L.O.S.T. Swimming) and EMBRACE OPEN WATER SWIMMING (EOWS) to try and promote marathon swimming in Canada and bring back the glory days of Lake Ontario Crossings.
With this offering, LOST and EOWS now provides one-stop shopping for marathon swimmers by providing: dual recognition and sanctioning of the swim globally by GLCO and WOWSA (World Open Water Swimming Association), sanctioning that uses internationally recognized safety rules and regulations, all the necessary boats and crew, as well as all the necessary permits, insurance and even a recommended training program and personal guidance from experienced marathon swimmers and crew… not to mention the appropriate recognition for such a world class accomplishment!
So if your goal is to achieve a Great Lake Crossing, please download the PDF below to find the rules, requirements and registration necessary to complete a GLCO sanctioned swim.