Let’s go outside: Events to get you going
Roisin Finlay and Helen Vaughan guide you through 2017’s outdoor offerings
Pulse Port Beach Sprint Triathlon, Port Beach, Co Louth: competitors gather for the start of the Women’s race. Photograph: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Getting fit doesn’t need to mean slogging it out in the gym. One of the best fitness motivators is to sign up for an event and to tell everyone you are doing it. That approaching date on the calendar will act as both carrot and stick. Even if you haven’t trained as much as you would like to achieve a top performance personally, on the day of the event itself, you’ll be helped keep going by the crowd and the supporters. And, as a bonus, after the event, you’ll have pushed yourself longer and harder than normal and given your fitness a huge boost. Here is a bumper list of events for you to choose from for 2017.
Park runsPark runs (parkrun.ie) are a great choice if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey. Held on Saturday mornings, these 5km events take place in 55 locations across Ireland so you’re bound to find one near you. The runs are free, timed, and can be as relaxed or competitive as you like. And now park run has introduced 2km events for ages 4 to 14.
Open water swimmingSwimming in the sea or lakes is a great way to keep fit and get you immersed in nature. One great option is the scenic Lough Key swim in Co Roscommon (openwaterswimmer.ie) on June 17th where you can choose from 750m and 1500m distances. The longer route will take you around Castle Island. This event is open to swimsuit and wetsuit swimmers.
If June is too chilly to hit the open water, you could aim for the Great Fjord swim in the deep green water of Connemara’s Killary Harbour on September 30th (gaelforceevents.com). There are three distances (750m, 1500m and 3900m) and again you swim in togs or a wetsuit.
If you’d like to improve or learn to swim, check out Swim Ireland’s Swim for a Mile programme (swimforamile.com).
Night runsIf you’ve run a few 10km races and want a new buzz, try racing at night. You can opt for a fully lit hilly off-road course at the Mourne Way 10km Night Race on January 27th at Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor, Co Down (26extreme.com). Or, if you need longer preparation, check out the 5km/10km Run in the Dark on November 15th (runinthedark.org). It’s held at locations throughout Ireland, the UK and the rest of the world.
TriathlonMany people are put off triathlons thinking the events are too long. But, in fact, as you tackle three disciplines to cover the distance, you spread the load on your muscles and joints. And there is also the relay option where you just undertake one of the three bike, run or swim sections.
Mullaghmore Triathlon on the Sligo coast (msctri.com) is a picturesque entry-level race. It’s on June 17th and is a sprint distance, with a 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run.
Or if you’d like to complete an Olympic-distance event on a great course, check out the Jailbreak Triathlon in Cobh, Co Cork, on July 1st (triathlonireland.com). It comprises a 1,500m swim (from Spike Island across Cork harbour to Cobh), 40km cycle and 10km run. This is a lovely community-run event that’s really well organised.
Visit triathlonireland.com for more events.
DuathlonIf you don’t like getting wet, a duathlon could be a good choice as it involves just running and cycling. The Ballyhoura Active Series in Co Limerick (ballyhouraactive.com) offers relaxed entry-level events in the brilliant Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Park and surrounding hills. There’s one on March 4th that involves a 4km run, 6km offroad cycle and a 2km run. Mountain bikes can be hired through Trailriders.ie. The series will offer more events between May and September.
Another great duathlon option is The Wall Adventure Duathlon on October 14th (26extreme.com) amid the gorgeous surroundings of the Mournes, Co Down.
More running eventsIf you’re ready to take on longer running events, why not pick a half marathon with great views to distract you from the hard work? The Gleneagle Run Killarney half-marathon (runkillarney.com) course will take you through the picturesque mountains and lakes of Killarney National Park on July 22nd. There’s also a 10km option.
If you want to go the full 42km distance, the Causeway Coast marathon in Northern Ireland takes place on September 23rd (26extreme.com). The area has been made world famous by Game of Thrones and is extremely scenic with beautiful beaches, bays and cliffs along the way. There are also 10km, half marathon and ultra marathon (60km) options.
Or for a fun, family friendly option for a great cause, check out the Great Pink Run in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland on September 3rd (breastcancerireland.com). Taking place in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, it offers a 10km event and a 5km fun run.
SkiingSkiing is another great way to get fit. And, yes, it’s possible in Ireland at the indoor Ski Centre in Sandyford, Co Dublin (skicentre.ie), and the Ski Club of Ireland’s in Kilternan, Co Dublin (skiclub.ie). Both have events on World Snow Day (January 14th-15th) with discounted lessons available. And if you want to set yourself a challenge, sign up for the Ski Centre’s 10km non-stop Everest Ski Challenge which raises money for the centre’s adaptive ski programme for those with physical and emotional special needs.
If you’re after an active holiday that will also act like a fitness bootcamp, the Outsider ski trip from March 18th-25th (firstname.lastname@example.org) could be the ticket. This trip aims to push your skiing and fitness to new levels with four long-distance on-piste guided ski tours in Italy’s Dolomiti/Superski region. They include the La Grande Guerra tour that takes in battle scenes from the first World War, and the stunning Sella Ronda.
Mud runsMud runs are possibly the best laugh-a-minute routes to fitness. The Runamuck Challenge (runamuckchallenge.com) offers 5km and 10km options and is easy enough for almost every fitness level. Obstacles include a tyre mountain, river crossings, and a flying fox over water. The next one takes place in Co Kildare on March 11th.
If you’re up for a bigger challenge, and don’t mind getting electric shocks or being shot at, give the 10-15km Hell and Back events (hellandback.ie) a go. They’re held at the Killruddery Estate in Bray, Co Wicklow, on June 17th and September 9th.
One-day adventure racesFamous for their social side, one-day adventure races are a little like triathlon in that they involve multiple disciplines but swimming is usually replaced with kayaking and running is often off road.
One of Ireland’s most well-known events is Gaelforce West (June 24th) but if you’re looking for something new, check out the brand new 29km or 49km Gaelforce Dublin on February 18th (gaelforceevents.com). Or there’s Gaelforce North that will race through Glenveagh National Park and around Mount Errigal in Co Donegal on September 23rd.
Another great one-day adventure race option is the four-event Quest series (questadventureseries.com). With events in Killarney (March 18th and October 7th), Glendalough, Wicklow (April 8th), and Achill, Co Mayo (September 9th), these races are a wonderful excuse to visit some gorgeous places in Ireland. And the organisers have gone to great lengths to offer distances ranging from 28km to 63km so they appeal to everyone from beginners to serious athletes. The inclusive Quest model has proven so popular that they have just announced overseas races in Wales (May 6th) and Scotland (June 10th).
Other top one-day adventure races include the Clare Island Adventure Race on April 29th (clareislandadventures.ie), Dingle Adventure Race on June 10th (dingleadventurerace.com), Race2Glory in Mayo on July 15th (race2glory.com) and Fearmanagh in Fermanagh on October 7th (fearmanagh.com).
Multi-day adventure racesNot for the faint-hearted, the Ireland Coast to Coast multi-sport race (26extreme.com) requires running, kayaking and cycling 312km from the west to the east coasts of Ireland. Starting in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, on May 20th, the finish line is in Newcastle, Co Down. You can do it in two days (and stop overnight) or race non-stop. There are also shorter cycle- and run-only options.
One of Ireland’s original multi-day adventure races, the Beast of Ballyhoura (beastofballyhoura.com), involves mountain biking, trekking, orienteering, kayaking, rope work and swimming across three counties in Munster. This is the 10th year of the race that’s held over the August bank holiday weekend with mixed teams of four competing. More information on the course and distances will be announced as registration opens in early 2017.
HikingHiking and walking are some of the best ways to keep fit with minimal impact on joints and the real possibility of continuing into old age. If you’re not great with a map and compass, a great way to experience the wilds of the hills is to sign up to one of Ireland’s fantastic hiking festivals.
Ireland’s oldest and still a firm favourite is the Ballyhoura International Walking Festival (visitballyhoura.com) in Kilfinane, Co Limerick, from April 28th to May 1st. It offers a packed programme for all abilities, from the challenging half marathon in the Galtees to gentle guided walks in the company of local heritage, archaeology, history, and flora and fauna experts.
Other highlights on the walking calendar include Walk the Line on March 25th (walktheline.ie) and the Moonlight Challenge on November 4th (moonlightchallenge.com). Walk the Line offers 14km and 30km challenges while the Moonlight Challenge covers 25km. Both are in aid of mountain rescue services and see participants hike from dusk into darkness.
And if you’d like to hike over multiple days, Outsider is running a weeklong trip from August 20th-26th in the Austrian Tirol (email@example.com). Guides will take you walking for up to eight hours each day according to your ability and fitness as you explore a region of crystal clear lakes, jagged peaks and trails meandering through cooling forests and high into the mountains. Sections of Austria’s long-distance multi-day Eagle Walk will be explored, and you’ll visit the Zugspitze glacier (German’s highest point) and Lake Seebensee.
CyclingCycling sportifs are a great way to either get started on two wheels or really challenge yourself on your bike. They generally offer multiple distances and pit stops where you’ll get refreshments. Bonus!
One top pick is the scenic Tour de Burren on June 17th (tourdeburren.com), with options to do 52km, 96km or 160km. There is also a 10km family route.
Or check out Westsportif in Mayo on May 13th (westportif.ie), the Tour de Conamara on May 27th (tourdeconamara.ie) and The Sean Kelly Tour in Waterford on August 19th-20th (visitwaterford.com)
Or for something completely different, sign up to the Night Rider Sportif on April 8th (gaelforceevents.com). If the weather gods play ball, it’s a chance to cycle Connemara under a full moon.
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Women-only eventsIf you and a gang of girlfriends are looking for an alternative activity to do together, there is a growing collection of women-only events. The 10km VHI Women’s Mini Marathon in Dublin on June 5th(vhiwomensminimarathon.ie) is a perennial favourite but there are other options such as the 10km Newry & Mourne Women’s mini marathon on July 23rd (26extreme.com). And Gaelforce runs two women-only adventure races around Killary Fjord in Galway on July 22nd and Wicklow on August 19th (gaelforceevents.com).
Another option is the The Women with Altitude festival from May 12th-14th in Tollymore, Co Down (womenwithaltitude.ie). This Mountaineering Ireland initiative aims to help women take on greater challenges in mountaineering, be it navigating, climbing or general hiking skills.
Roisin Finlay and Helen Vaughan edit Outsider, Ireland’s only outdoor and adventure magazine. Outsider is published quarterly and covers everything from hiking, biking and running to kayaking, surfing and skiing. outsider.ie