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Are you looking for a new challenge in 2023? Why not consider doing a mountain running race?!
Mountain running is an excellent way to get into the hills and challenge yourself in 2022. We have compiled a list of 23 of the best mountain running races to do in Ireland in 2023, plus a few honorable mentions! There really is something for everyone in this article from the die-hard ultra-endurance nut to the unsure first-timer.
Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding about mountain running that we see often is people thinking they should be moving at the same pace as their park run PBs, and if you are hiking during a “run” you have failed. This is not at all the case! We would advise walking up hills the first few hill runs you go on! Even the professionals and race winners will be seen hiking during races. So slow it down, get outside, walk if you feel like it, and enjoy moving through the mountains! The vast majority of the people that participate in mountain running events are not doing it to compete!
IMRA – The Irish Mountain Running Association, get off-road
Before we get to the start line of this list of (more than) 23 of the best trail & mountain running races to do in Ireland in 2023. The dates on this list are subject to change but we will try and keep the list as up-to-date as possible! The dates that we are unsure about having an “*”.
13th January 2023
Let’s start our list of the top 23 mountain running races to do in 2022 with an iconic one, The Art O’Neill Challenge. The Art O’Neill Challenge is a 60km ultra running and hiking event that takes place every January. This unique event begins in Dublin Castle in the dark and participants hike or runs to Glenmalure Lodge in South Wicklow. With a mixture of road and self-navigated open mountain, this is a unique event! This race is a fundraising event for the Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team. The event is a huge help to the team in ensuring they can continue to provide the vital service that many of us take for granted! This year they are also introducing the “Pursuit” a 25km distance where participants will run from Dublin Castle to Kippure Estate. In spite of being sold out in 2023, it is worth putting on the bucket list for future reference!
6 Things I learnt from the Art O’Neill 2022
Ticknock – February 2022*
If you are new to the world of Irish mountain running, the winter league race on Ticknock is a brilliant place to start. It is one of the first races on the Irish Mountain Running Association’s 2023 calendar. A familiar hill to many, Ticknock Hill is easily accessible from Dublin yet provides a great diversity of trails. The winter race is an 8.4 km loop around Ticknock starting and finishing at the car park. Whether you are new to hill running in 2023 or looking for an early-season tune-up race this is a great one to consider. Similar races worth considering are the other Winter League races that IMRA put on. The Trooperstown race was also great last year. If you are looking for some short, fun races to do at the start of 2023, look no further!
Originally named “The Wicklow Way Ultra”, this race was organized by the inspirational Irish runner Maurice Mullins who sadly passed away a few years ago. If you want to learn more about the incredible man the Irish Times published an amazing article on him back in 2014 that summarizes his athletic story and unwavering dedication to his physical self in spite of challenging health problems. You can read it here. The race itself is a 44 km race with nearly 2000m of climbing along the Wicklow Way. Many long-distance trail runners test themselves at this race as it is a runnable yet unrelenting route. An absolute must for anyone who wants to consider themselves an ultra trail runner, the race starts and finishes in Glencullen so is perfectly positioned for runners to avail of the iconic pub grub at Johnnie Fox’s after the race.
An excellent event. Last year this race fell on one of the first warm spring days. The race is a 21km out-and-back format from Lough Tay to Crone wood and back. The course offers a mix of boardwalk, technical trail, and fire road and as the name suggests follows the Wicklow Way. At the front of the race in 2022 runners competed for a place on the Irish Mountain Running Team while everyone else enjoyed the views and the trails of North Wicklow in springtime! This race is on our calendar for this coming year, is it on yours? The winner of the 2022 Wicklow Way Half Barry McEvoy wrote an incredible race report click below to check it out!
Wicklow Way Half: Barry McEvoy
16th April 2022
Gaelforce Kippure is a scenic 10km race that is a perfect first taste of trail running or as a totally different experience for seasoned urban runners. The run takes place in the tranquil Wicklow countryside on Kippure Estate which offers 240 acres of untamed, natural beauty. Yet you’re only 30 mins drive from Dublin’s M50. Bonus!
12th August 2023
Located in the seaside town of Bray in Co.Wicklow, a mere 40 minutes from the city is the route for the Bray 10K! A challenging coastal route with a great mix of road, beach, forest track, and trail will guide runners around a 10k loop where they will be in awe of the scenery. As it is a Gaelforce race the atmosphere will be incredible. A great mid-season 10k to have on your radar for 2023!
7th October 2023
This is city trail running, but not as you know it. The route will kick off at Howth Castle and take in the summit of Howth Hill offering sweeping views across Dublin Bay. The course will take in varied terrain and is a great event for those looking to dip their toe into the world of hill running.
This is an exciting race for the experienced mountain runner. This race is an unmarked mountain marathon in the Wicklow Mountains that requires excellent navigational skills as well as a good level of experience in the hills. The “course” requires that racers touch each of the glacial lakes in Wicklow. The race will take the winners up to 5 hours to complete. A very adventurous race for the calendar! The Glacier Lakes race can also be tackled in a team as a relay, more information about this race can be found on the IMRA website.
23 September 2023
The 2023 iteration of the Seven Sisters Skyline will be the 6th anniversary of this event! The event race route passes over the top of the Seven Sisters in the Derryveagh Mountains from Errigal to Muckish. The terrain is incredibly challenging but the views over the Donegal countryside make it worthwhile! This race has become Ireland’s premier mountain running event and is a part of the UK and Ireland Skyrunning Series. There are two distances to choose from; a 30 km race as well as the 55 km out-and-back which involves over 4000 meters of climbing! One of our “Heroes of the Week” Ultra Runner Ricki Wynne claimed the win at the 2022 edition of the 55km.
Hero Of The Week: Ricki Wynne
The Wicklow Way is Ireland’s oldest waymarked trail and covers 130km from Marley Park to Clonegal. This trail is a bit too long (for some of us!) to consider tackling in one go. The Wicklow Way Relay, however, is a team race where eight runners take on eight different legs of the Wicklow Way back to back. The teams must be composed of two master’s athletes as well as two female athletes. The Wicklow Way Relay is raced from north to south starting in Marley Park. This is an excellent team-based race that offers those who complete it an immense feeling of satisfaction having covered the entire Wicklow Way in a day!
The team captain of the winning team of the 2022 edition, David Power of Rathfarnham A.C. wrote a brilliant race report after last years race. Click below to read it!
Wicklow Way Relay 2022: Winners Enclosure
In 2009, the Mourne Way Marathon was Ireland’s first-ever mass-participation off-road marathon. Now, over a decade later there are a number of distances to choose from at this great weekend of racing in the beautiful Mourne Mountains.
Competitors can choose between a half-marathon, full marathon, 84 km ultra race, and a full 100-mile ultra race. Whether you are looking at getting into trail running or looking to push your distance to the next level the Mourne Way Marathon series is what you’re looking for!
Top 8 Hikes to do in Connaught in 2022
Perhaps one of the toughest races on the mountain running calendar in Ireland, the Reeks Skyline takes in the full Skyline of the magnificent Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, summiting Carrauntoohil twice! The race is 24km long and includes a staggering 2400m of climbing so it’s not one for the faint-hearted and requires pre-entry approval by the Irish Mountain Running Association. If you are up to the challenge this should be a bucket list Irish race!
The Irish Championships is a race series that takes place every summer, the runner with the best results will be crowned the Irish Mountain Running Champion for that year. The Championship races take place on some of the most iconic mountains in Ireland. The series changes slightly depending on access and licenses every year but last year the Irish Championships comprised of Carrauntoohil, Mweelrea, Lugnaquilla, and Galtymore.
Each race is an excellent event in itself but we would encourage you to tackle them all! Most of Irish Championship courses are unmarked and require a basic understanding of navigation. That being said they are still accessiable to entry level mountain runners. We recommend doing the route in training before race day to familiarize yourself!
The mighty Carrauntoohil commands respect among hikers and runners alike. The first round of the Irish Championships takes place on the tallest mountain in Ireland. An iconic route that has been raced by world champions, this race is definitely worth the trip to the Reeks!
On the first weekend of July, mountain runners in Ireland will flock to the west to take part in two amazing races. On Saturday runners will tackle the mighty Mweelrea race. A 10.7 km race with over 750m of climbing. This steep technical race will challenge even the most experienced runners. There is a shorter but equally challenging race on Nephin the following day. Tackling both in one weekend would be an excellent weekend of racing.
A familiar mountain for many Lugnaquilla perhaps the most enjoyable of the Irish Championship races. The route goes up the west side of Lugnaquilla. It is rarely too wet underfoot at this time of year so we would highly recommend taking part in this race if you are only going to do one of the Irish Championship races next year!
Perhaps one of the most challenging races on the IMRA calendar. The route takes runners over Cush, Galtybeg and Galtymore before retracing their steps back over Galtybeg and Cush. Last years race took place on a warm and humid day in the middle of August. The race packs over 1200m of climbing into the 11km route, most of which is so steep you can reach out and tough the ground ahead of you. An epic race and one that is well worth considering, especially if the Galtees are your local mountains.
Tips for becoming a better runner
1st and 2nd September 2023
Ireland’s premier ultra trail race, the Kerry Way Ultra, is an epic 200km race that covers the entire Kerry Way. Competitors will pass through some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes, taking in magnificent coastal views as well as mountainscapes! The terrain includes everything; roads, lanes, trails, and hillsides. Starting and finishing in Killarney, racers have 40 hours to complete the course. Entries are limited to those that have completed two marathons in the preceding 12 months or a 50-mile or 100k event.
If the full 200km ultra is not for you this year, there are a number of other events that take place on the same weekend! The Kerry Way Ultra Lite is a 58km race that takes in the Kerry Way between Sneem and Killarney.
Are you up for the challenge?
Weekly April – August
Every Wednesday night from April to August the Irish Mountain Running Association put on a race. Some of these are part of the Leinster League and some are part of the Trail League. There is a huge diversity of races from the more “open-mountain” Sorell hill to the trail-based Devil’s Glen. After every race, there is a prize giving at a local pub or in the carpark with food, drink, prizes for the winners, and spot raffle prizes as well. The community and atmosphere around these races are welcoming, uncompetitive (for most people), and a great mid-week activity! Once you are an IMRA member it only costs you €7 to enter each race!
28th – 30th April 2023
The Waterville Trailrunning Festival is a series of 4 trail races taking place over 3 days, along the Lough Currane/Derrynane loop of the Kerry Way, on the Atlantic tip of the Iveragh Peninsula. The 4 different races are: A 3 day stage race, a 130km Ultra, a 43km Mountain Marathon and a 25km trail race. The festival is a not-for-profit event, after all costs have been covered if there are any funds remaining they will be donated to local charities.
30th September 2023
EcoTrail Wicklow is one of the most “European feeling” trail races on offer in Ireland. On a Saturday morning in September Bray promenade becomes a place of congregation for trail runners far and wide. EcoTrail Wicklow offers an 80 km, 45 km, 30 km, and 18 km race to suit a variety of different abilities. The courses take in some of the best that northeast Wicklow has to offer. There is a great buzz around this event and is definitely one we would recommend doing this year!
Dynafit Support EcoTrail Wicklow
The Kilmac Running Festival is a great autumn trail & mountain running weekend. This October why not tackle one of the many different races on offer. There is a women’s only night challenge, a junior race as well as standard races that include a 30km a 25km and 12km. There is always a good buzz around these races and we would highly recommend getting involved in 2023!
18th November 2023*
Run the Line is a fundraiser event for the Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team and takes place in the Dublin Mountains in November. There are two distances available to competitors, a 12km short course and a 26km long course. The 12km course completes a lap of Ticknock Hill including the summit of Fairy Castle. The 26 km course also takes in Tibradden Hill as well as the beautiful Cruagh woods. The event is extremely well run, as one would expect from a Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team event, and is a great end-of-season challenge. It is a fantastic showcase of the diversity of mountain running that can be experienced in the Dublin Mountains, there are a few moments when you could be anywhere! A fast-paced race at the pointy end and a great challenge for all! We would absolutely recommend this race as an introductory event to trail & mountain running or as an end-of-season goal!
Dynafit Alpine Trail Running Shoe Review
An iconic IMRA race that is one of the last races on the calendar! The weather conditions are nearly always bad but that is some of the fun of this race! What else would you expect from a mountain running race at the end of November? The 16km race goes from Crone carpark, over Maulin and Djouce before descending back to Crone carpark past Ride Rock (Powerscourt Waterfall viewpoint). There is a great buzz around this race and afterward, participants flock to a nearby pub for the prizegiving and some food! The perfect setting to share stories of their wild experiences during the race!
We hope that whatever races or adventures you get up to in 2023 go well for you! st importantly, have fun! If you tackle any of these races this year be sure to tag us on social media and let us know how you get on!
By Matthew McConnell
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