Mountain running is an incredible way to get outside. Not only outside in nature, but also outside your comfort zone. There are however a few common misconceptions as well as things to know about Irish Mountain Running. The adage, “people don’t know what they don’t know” comes to mind.  As with many outdoor activities, the only barrier for entry with mountain running is getting started. Here are our tips on how to get started!

Mood Follows Action

Go for a hill run! As humans, it can be so difficult to break the cycle of thought and just take action! We are going to share some really practical information regarding gear, races, and community for getting started with hill running, but before we do, go for a run.

Trail Running Events in 2019
Image: Munster Mountain Running Association

The Gear

It is important to say that you can run no matter what gear you have. However, if you do have the budget to invest some money into your hill running journey, you will be far more comfortable and we believe you will get far more enjoyment from it. Running is an excellent form of outdoor movement because there is not as much specialist gear required as other sports such as skiing, climbing, or kayaking. However, the gear needed to enjoy your time out on the trails is a little more specialized than what you may use for a parkrun.

Footwear – It may seem obvious but a good pair of footwear would be the first thing we would recommend considering investing in. Everyone has individual preferences as far as shoes. We would recommend, for your first shoe, getting something that will cover as many uses and types of terrain as possible.

“A favourite of mine and one I often recommend to people is the Hoka Speedgoat. I do 80% of my running in this shoe and love them. They are soft enough to cushion your step, while also offering great support and a grippy outsole to keep you upright!” – Matthew McConnell (

Lightweight Jacket – A mandatory piece of kit for many organized events is a lightweight jacket.


We put this point in inverted commas as the thoughts that may spring to your mind surrounding what a running race is are possibly quite far removed from what the experience at these races is. As well as being a competitive sport between racers, hill running is a sport of self-exploration. There are loads of events to choose from these days, however, we would recommend having a look at  The Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) which has a calendar full of races that would be excellent as your first foray into the world of racing. You will quickly realize that almost half of the “racers” are not taking part to compete with anyone except themselves.

IMRA Races

Attending your first IMRA race can be intimidating, confusing, and at times overwhelming. We highly recommend getting a group of friends, signing up for an annual membership for IMRA (€25), and heading to a race that is local to you. Race entries are very cheap as IMRA is a volunteer lead organization. Upon your arrival to your first race, you must collect your number, and your chip (for timing), people generally attach their chips to their laces and pin the number to their chest.

5 Things to know

1. The number you collect will be the same for any IMRA race you attend that year, so be sure to keep it and remember to bring it along to the next race you attend.

2. There are two starts at nearly all IMRA races. The “early starters” usually go out before the main race. The early start is for people who wish to take their time around the course. There is no shame at all in beginning in the early start on your first time if you feel more comfortable doing so. Races with no early start are labeled as such on the IMRA website.

3. Jacket! A showerproof jacket is a mandatory piece of kit for all IMRA races. This must be brought with you during the race.

4. You must sign up for the race you wish to attend in advance. Entries generally open between a few days and a few weeks before the race day depending on the race.

5. Keep an eye on the website. Event updates, discussions on events, race reports, and much more are all posted to the forum on the IMRA website. Images from races are also uploaded here.

Trail Running Races 2019
Image: Paul Daly

See you at a race soon!

There is an amazing calendar of events. Have a read of our article on the 15 Best Mountain Running Races of 2022 for some inspiration and we will see you at a race very soon!


By Matthew McConnell

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