Get fit and have fun: 20 events around Ireland in 2018, whatever your ability
Get active and explore the country as you do it, with these blood-pumping events
The Biking Blitz series offers mountain bike races for all levels.
Countrywide, every Saturday, free
There are currently 7,821 Park Run events taking place every Saturday in more than 70 locations around Ireland. These are sociable timed 5km events. And they are free, so there’s no excuse not to give one a go. Find your nearest at parkrun.ie.
Mourne Way 10K Night Race
Co Down, January 26th, £25
Layer up and run through the dark, being guided along the way by flashing lights. Marshals will also be on the course to keep you from going astray. This event takes place in Kilbroney Forest Park and is part of a three-race series. On-course music, glow sticks, and cakes and drinks at the finish line will add to the party atmosphere; 26extreme.com.
Wicklow, Limerick, Galway and Dublin; February 11th and 25th, March 11th and 25th; junior €10, senior €25 online or €30 on the day
The Biking Blitz series offers mountain bike races for all levels – from juniors to adults to hard-core bikers. The first event is in Ballinastoe, Co Wicklow, and will offer 14km and 28km races. There are two categories to choose from: Baggy Shorts and Super PRO. Racers will then battle it out in Ballyhoura, Limerick (February 26th – 17km and 35km), Derroura, Galway (March 11th – 16km and 32km) and Ticknock, Dublin (March 25th – 14km and 28km). The overall winners will be crowned king and queen of the Irish mountain bike trails; bikingblitz.ie.
Dublin, February 17th, early bird €80, otherwise €95
The distances in multi-sport races can seem intimidating to the uninitiated but because you switch from discipline to discipline, they are much easier on your body and are a great way to push your fitness. And besides, because they nearly always take place in a scenic spot, you’ll be distracted from your pain by the gorgeous scenery. Gaelforce Dublin is back for its second year in 2018, offering two distances – 49km or 29km. You’ll travel on foot, bike and kayak on a course that takes you from the city limits into the hills of south Co Dublin and back. Gaelforce Dublin is a sister event to Gaelforce North (September 22nd, Donegal – 45km and 64km) and Gaelforce West (June 23rd, Co Mayo – 66km). And if the above races don’t sound challenging enough, a 158km ultra distance event has also been added to the Gaelforce West line-up for 2018; gaelforceevents.com.
Kenmare, Co Kerry; March 10th, €80
Like all of the Quest race series, this new Kenmare multi-sport event has a distance to suit almost every level of fitness (67km, 50km and 29km). Participants will cycle, kayak and hike/run as they explore Kenmare Bay, Gleninchiquinn, the Caha Pass on the Beara Peninsula and charming Kenmare town in Co Kerry – past 200ft waterfalls, through secret valleys and along ancient mountain trails. If March doesn’t suit, Quest runs numerous other races that follow a similar format – Glendalough, Co Wicklow (April 21st), Achill, Co Mayo (September 8th), Wales (May 12th) and Killarney, Co Kerry (October 6th). And for the truly hard core, check out Quest 12/24 (August 25th, Co Kerry), which is new for 2018. This one-day individual unsupported adventure race features Ireland’s highest mountains and follows the toughest cycling routes in the south-west. There are two routes to choose from – 147km and 241km – and competitors have a limit of 12 or 24 hours respectively; questadventureseries.com.
Co Kildare, March 10th, €30
If you’re up for getting down and dirty, then get ready for the return of the Runamuck Challenge. Ireland’s original and most popular off-road mucky run offers 5km or 10km routes. Both will see you belly laughing as you make your way through the cross-country obstacle course which includes hay bales, Tarzan swings and super slides; runamuckchallenge.com.
Killarney Mountain Festival
Co Kerry, March 9th-11th, price to be confirmed
Running in partnership with the UK’s iconic Kendal Mountain Festival, this celebration of all things mountain-related will feature award-winning adventure movies, workshops, exhibitions, family activities, hikes, scrambles and climbs, and an amazing programme of guest speakers, including Dermot Somers, Dawson Stelfox and Jasper Winn; killarneymountainfestival.com.
Night Rider Sportif
Co Galway, April 28th, early bird €43, otherwise €65
Kicking off just before sunset and running into darkness, this unique cycling sportif offers 60km and 100km routes. Taking in some of the very best of the Wild Atlantic Way by moonlight (weather permitting), riders will cycle a loop from Clifden, Co Galway, exploring Connemara beauty spots like Kylemore Abbey, Killary Fjord and the Inagh Valley under skies with almost zero light pollution; gaelforceevents.com.
Clare Island Adventure Race
Co Mayo, April 28th, €45
This event offers the perfect excuse to visit gorgeous Clare Island off Co Mayo. Appealing to both experienced and novice racers, there are two options to choose from. The full course (24km) includes a killer climb over Knockmore, while the Spirit Race (15km) skips the climb and has a shorter cycle, making it very doable for the less experienced. Finally, a plunge in the sea from the pier and a beach obstacle challenge add a great novelty factor; clareislandadventures.ie.
Clare Island Singles Adventure Weekends
Co Mayo, May and September, €215
Forget Tinder – this is the way to meet a partner in crime! Activities include archery, beach challenges, coasteering and hiking. And if Cupid doesn’t strike, at least you’ll have great fun; clareislandadventures.ie.
Coast to Coast Multisport Race
May 19th-20th, £300
This might just be the ultimate Irish adventure! There are two options to choose from in this event which sees participants traverse the country from west to east, covering 300km+ from Enniscrone, Co Sligo, to Newcastle, Co Down. You can choose the epic option and kayak, bike and hike/run non-stop or opt for the two-day version where you’ll sleep in a bed for the night. The route passes through unspoilt rural locations, quaint villages and along the Shannon-Erne Waterway, one of the most famous waterways in Ireland. The Coast to Coast Sportive cycle event and the Coast to Coast Mountain Race are also part of the extravaganza; 26extreme.com.
Outsider Trekking Trip to the Dolomites
Italy, June 16th, €999
This hiking trip will see you walk through the mind-blowing scenery of the Italian Dolomites, passing first World War battlements, spotting marmots and breathing in the wonderful air. And by night, instead of retreating to the valleys, you’ll bed down in rustic mountain huts called refugi, sharing rooms that range from four beds to dorms accommodating many more. This is a chance to stay in the high mountains with fellow hikers and mountaineers, swapping stories as you enjoy delicious and hearty local food. The trip is ideal for hillwalkers looking for that extra challenge or something a bit different. There is also a hotel-based Outsider Austrian hiking trip to the stunning Austrian Alps (August 19th-26th), if that’s more up your street; topflight.ie.
Tour de Burren
Co Clare, June 16th-17th, early bird €35, otherwise €40
See one of the most spectacular parts of the Wild Atlantic Way in all its glory by taking part in this fun-filled cycling event through the Burren in Co Clare. There are four route options – 160km, 110km, 62km and the 10km family loop event – so there’s no excuse not to get involved; tourdeburren.com.
Newry and Mourne Women’s Mini Marathon
Co Down, July 22nd, £25
This 10km event is designed by women, for women and takes place in the beautiful countryside of Newry and the Mournes. The entire race is on tarmac; 26extreme.com.
Killarney, July 28th, €20-€40
With a choice of 10km and half-marathon distances, this event travels through gorgeous Kerry countryside. The half-marathon starts on what must be one of the most scenic roads in the country and finishes at the Gleneagle Hotel. The 10km race loops around the national park near Muckross House. All participants can avail of well-earned massages, hot tubs and a post-race party to celebrate finishing; runkillarney.com.
Mourne Sprint Distance Triathlon
Co Down, August 25th, €50
This sprint-distance triathlon – 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run – is part of the Triathlon Ireland’s 2018 National Series. Taking place in stunning Castlewellan Forest Park, participants will swim in the clear waters of Castlewellan lake, cycle on closed roads in the Mourne Mountains and run around the lake. If that sounds a little too much for you, you could enter as a relay or choose the aqua-velo (swim and bike) option; triathlonireland.com.
Causeway Coast Marathon
Co Antrim, September 22nd, £47.50
Known by some as the beaches, bays and cliffs marathon, this Co Antrim event takes place on one of the country’s most scenic coastlines. There are four distances on offer – a 10km, half-marathon, marathon and ultra-marathon – so there’s something for everyone. There is also a marathon-distance Challenge Walk; 26extreme.com.
Mourne Mountain Marathon
Co Down, September 15th-16th, £100 per team
Aimed at hikers and hill runners, this two-day endurance and navigation event for teams of two will take you through the beautiful Mourne Mountains. There are a number of distances for different abilities, ranging from 35km, 45km, and up to 55km for elite teams. Participants camp overnight and must be self-sufficient, carrying everything needed for the duration of the event; mourne2day.com.
The Great Fjord Swim
Co Galway, October 6th, €24.50-€50
This open-water swim is one of the best water-based events on the calendar. Taking place in the deep waters of Killary Fjord surrounded by the mountains of Mayo and Connemara, the event offers three distances – 3.9km, 2km and 750m – and competitors in the longer events can choose to swim in togs or wetsuits (it’s wetsuits only for the 750m event). Swimmers in the 2km and 750m swims are brought out into the middle of the fjord by boat and jump off to start the race; gaelforceevents.com.
Howth Summit 10km Run
Co Dublin, date to be confirmed, €24
The views of Dublin Bay from this scenic 10km course around the summit of Howth Head are simply breathtaking. This run over rough tracks, grassy trails and sealed roads will help you keep up your fitness as the dark days of winter start to move in; gaelforceevents.com.
Co Galway, November 19th, €40
This 14km event is aimed squarely at those looking to have a bit of fun by taking on an achievable adventure challenge. You’ll begin by cycling the gentle winding road from Delphi around Killary Fjord, before kayaking a 1km circuit on the scenic fjord. Finally, you’ll bike towards Delphi where you’ll begin your trail run (5km) through the forest before returning to the resort; delphiadventureresort.com.
Co Galway, date to be confirmed, €50-€70
Always a fun-fuelled and messy day out, this 10km event will see you swinging, jumping and climbing your way through forests, bogs and rivers. Set on the banks of the Killary Fjord, grab your mates and take on this obstacle course; turfwarriorchallenge.com.
Mountain skills courses
December 2nd-3rd, plus first weekend of every month, €130
If you’re keen to hike more in the hills, a mountain skills course is a must. Learning to navigate is one of the most important survival skills. Extreme Ireland runs mountain skills courses which will give you a general introduction to hill walking in Ireland. You’ll learn about map reading, mountain safety and hazards equipment and navigation so you’ll be safely able to pursue hill walking as a hobby; extremeireland.ie.
Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon
Co Cork, date to be confirmed, full marathon €62
The annual marathon takes place on a breathtaking route, with views of the spectacular Inchydoney Island, Galley Head, Duneen strand and Dunmore headland. There are full, half and 10km options to choose from; runclon.ie.
Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!) and Get Healthy for 2018.
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!