The best events in Ireland for adventure lovers

Make 2016 a year to remember! Get out there and take part in one of these fantastic events.
By Heather Irvine

We should all embrace the beginning of a new year. With 12 months stretching out ahead of us, there is nothing but exciting opportunity to get out there and push ourselves that little bit further than the year gone by. And here in Ireland we are spoilt for choice. There are more outdoor events per square mile happening on our little island than there is in any other part of the world.

From triathlons to fun runs to expedition races, there is a little something for everyone no matter what your level of fitness. There really is no excuse not to get out there and make 2016 count. So come on, what are you waiting for?  

Wings For Life World Run © Sebastian Marko

Road Running:

Connemarathon - 10 April 2016

Offering a half, full and ultra-marathon option, this event is one of the most popular running races on the Irish calendar. With more than 3,000 entrants from 30 countries every year, the event sells out pretty quickly. Set against the dramatic backdrop of Connemara, the course meanders past bogs, hills, lakes and the Twelve Pin Mountains. The course starts and finishes in Maam Cross.

Wings for Life Run - 8 May 2016

This is a unique event that sees runners all over the globe set off at the same time. Kicking off at 12pm local time in Dun Laoghaire town centre the race is open to runners of all abilities who have to try and stay ahead of a catcher car. As soon as they are caught, they are out of the race. The route will see competitors run along the coastline out of Dun Laoghaire towards Bray and Greystones – elite runners might even make it as far as the Wicklow Mountains.

Kinvara Rock and Road Half Marathon - 5 March 2016

Taking place in the scenic town of Kinvara in Co Galway, the Rock and Road half marathon and 10km event will see 1,500 participants take part.

Achill Half Marathon - 2 July 2016

If you are looking for a race with spectacular scenery then look no further. This event provides a challenging course that will take participants on a 13.1 mile loop of the island, starting and finishing in Keel. A 10km option is also available.

Run Killarney - 23 July 2016

Run Killarney offers a unique opportunity to run a marathon along a route of unrivalled beauty taking in parts of the Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park and Muckross House. Aside from the view, the next best thing about this race is that it is fairly flat with lots of gentle declines along the way – so gravity will take you nearly all the way to the finish! A half marathon and 10km option are also on offer.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon - 07 August 2016

Calling all Rock ‘n’ Roll loving runners – this is the event for you. Kicking off from Dublin’s North Wall Quay, competitors will be treated to an array of live music as they make their way past a number of Dublin’s iconic landmarks including the Ha’Penny bridge, Christ Church Cathedral and the Guinness Brewery on the way to the finish line in the Phoenix Park.

Mooathon - 24 September 2016

This fun spirited event offers a 10km, half marathon and full marathon route option. Taking place in Donegal, a great atmosphere is always guaranteed, along with a really scenic route. The 10km, and half marathon are single loop routes, while the full marathon is a double loop of the half marathon course.

Run in the Dark - November 2016 – day TBC

While this might seem like a pretty standard 10km or 5km route, there is something very special about running this race. I am not sure if that is because you are running for Mark Pollock and his hunt for the cure to paralysis or because you know that people are running for the same cause all over the globe at the same time, either way it is always a race to remember.

Art O’Neill mountain running races
Art O’Neill ©

Trail Running:

Art O’Neill Challenge - 15-16 January 2016

This 55km night course leaves the city centre at midnight and heads south towards the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, finishing in Glenmalure well after sunrise. Participants can choose from a trek option which will be guided, a hybrid where you can run the first 30km from city centre to the Wicklow Mountains and walk the remainder or the Ultra where participants will run and self-navigate the entire route.

Wicklow Way Ultra - 26 March 2016

This 51km course has been given a difficulty rating of 10 by the Irish Mountain Running Association and for good reason – there is 1940m of ascent along the way. The route which is only suitable for runners will follow the Wicklow Way from Glencullen to Ballinastoe.

Clare Burren Marathon Challenge - 28 May 2016

Located in one of the most breath-taking areas of Ireland, you can be guaranteed spectacular views from start to finish. Offering a little something for everyone, you can choose from a mini, half, full or ultra-marathon.

RAW – Race Around Wicklow - 30 July 2016

Dubbed as one of Ireland’s toughest trail running races, this event covers a 25km loop over the Wicklow Mountains across some very challenging terrain. Participants have the option of completing the trail just once, or doing two, three or four loops.

Mourne Mountain Marathon - 17-18 September 2016

This two-day hill running/hiking event offers four classes attracting a wide range of abilities. You can expect long days as you traverse the Co Down countryside, camping under open skies while navigating your way through the hills. Competitors must be self-sufficient and carry everything required for the duration of the event.

Quest Killarney

Adventure Races:

The Race - 4-6 March 2016

The Race is a 250 km unsupported endurance event across the rugged landscape of north-west Donegal. In order to finish competitors must complete 15km of kayaking, 166km of cycling, 5km of mountain running and 64km of road and trail running. It is the ultimate 24-hour test of endurance.

Quest Glendalough - 23 April 2016

Kicking off from the picturesque surroundings of Glendalough, Co Wicklow, competitors will have to kayak, bike and run in order to reach the finish line. This multi-sport race has something for everyone – experts, intermediates and complete novices. The experts will be challenged to a 57km course that takes in a long slog up to the Drumgoff Gap by bike and the summit of Croaghanmoira by foot. For those looking for something a little more sedate, there are Sport and Mini categories on offer.

TEAR 24 Hour Adventure Race - 30 April 2016

TEAR is a perfect race for those looking to take the step into endurance racing. Teams of two have to complete five self-navigated stages along with a mandatory two-hour sleep zone over the course of 24 hours. Disciplines include kayaking, mountain biking, trekking/hill running, orienteering and a ropes section. The race starts and finishes in Lacken, Co Wicklow.

Dingle Adventure Race - 11 June 2016

The Dingle Adventure Race offers you the opportunity to explore one of the most scenic corners of Ireland. Participants have to kayak, run and bike to reach the finish line. The expert category covers a total distance of 48km with some tough terrain to conquer along the way – competitors will tackle the Conor Pass by bike, Mt Brandon on foot and kayak in Dingle Harbour. Those a little less sure of themselves can opt for either the sport or mini options which cover less distance and more gentle gradients.

Itera Expedition Race Ireland  - 16 - 23 August 2016

This non-stop expedition race is reserved for those who are bonkers enough to want to take on a distance of 600km over the course of 5 days in the wilds of Ireland. Teams of four will battle against sleep deprivation and some of the toughest terrain the country has to offer as they navigate from point to point on foot, by bike and by kayak to reach the finish line. No doubt race organisers will throw in a couple of surprises along the way too.
The race will finish in Killarney, Co Kerry, but the starting point will not be revealed until next summer.

Quest Killarney - 1 October 2016

Quest Killarney is a multi-sport event, comprising running, hiking, cycling and kayaking against the stunning backdrop of Ireland’s highest mountain range the MacGillcuddy Reeks. With five different route options - 70km, 60km, 50km, 48km or 27km – the race is suitable for all fitness levels.



Valentia Island Triathlon - 18 June 2016

This is a sprint triathlon set in a spectacular location. Valentia Island, located off the south west coast of Kerry provides the setting for the event. Part of the national series, this event draws competitors from all over Ireland and sometimes further afield. The race consists of a 750m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run. Valentia Island Triathlon Club

The Omey Dash - 06 August 2016

If it’s good craic with a bit of exercise thrown in that you’re after, then this is the race for you. Taking place in the scenic surroundings of Claddaghduff in Connemara, the Omey Dash involves a 750m swim from Omey Beach, a 24km cycle out to Cleggan and back via Aughrismore and a 5km run out to Omey Island. While the course is absolutely stunning, nothing rivals the craic in Sweeney’s pub afterwards.

The Hardman Iron Distance Triathlon - 20 August 2016

If you fancy completing an Ironman next year but can’t quite come to terms with the hefty price tags attached to the Ironman branded events then the Hardman is highly recommended. Set against the stunning backdrop of Co Kerry, participants will swim 3.8km in the famous lakes of Killarney, cycle 180km along the Ring of Kerry and run 42km through Killarney National Park. Let’s just say, you might want to do quite a lot of training for this particular challenge.

Dublin City Triathlon - 28 August 2016

Taking place in Dublin’s city centre, Dublin City Triathlon offers both Sprint and Olympic distance options. The swim will take place in the upper River Liffey, just beyond Island Bridge while the cycle and run will consist of lapped courses within Phoenix Park. While the course may not be the most scenic on the calendar, a great atmosphere with an abundance of enthusiastic supporters is guaranteed at this race.

The Lost Sheep - 03 September 2016

This half distance triathlon consists of a 1.9km swim, an 80km bike section and a 21km run. And as if that is not hard enough, it takes place on the unforgiving terrain around Kenmare, Co Kerry. Along the way you will be treated to spectacular views as you negotiate the Caha mountains and the infamous Healy Pass.

Blacksod Point Triathlon - 10 September 2016

Dubbed by many as the most challenging Olympic-distance triathlon in Ireland, Blacksod Point Tri in Co Mayo is the final event in the National Series. The race starts with a 1,500m sea swim in Blacksod Bay and is followed by a 43km bike ride. The bike course includes a challenging climb up Tarmon Hill (the highest point on the peninsula) before travelling along a stretch up the spine of the peninsula to Belmullet Town. Finally the race finishes with a 10km all-terrain run across the dunes of Fal Mor.

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