Ten breathtaking running races and trails around Ireland

With its exciting mix of routes and road and trail races, Ireland has transformed itself into an important destination for runners across the world.

Imagen de Rock n Roll Dublin
Imagen de Rock n Roll Dublin

Race 1: Connemarathon, 6 April, Maam Cross, County Galway (42km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

As they say in Irish, “Tháinig mé, rith mé, bhuaigh mé,” I came, I ran, I conquered. Conquer the wilderness of Connemara and snag yourself the classic blue ‘I Hit the Wall in Connemara’ t-shirt as a prize.

Why it rocks: There are marathons, and then there’s the Connemarathon. Comprising of a half, full, and an ultra marathon (63.2km), the Connemarathon takes you through Connemara’s inspirational landscapes of rugged mountains, peat boglands and glacial lakes. But aside from the scenery, what really sets this race apart is the atmosphere, the warm welcome from the locals and the unique sense of camaraderie among the participants. Last year’s race registered 3,200 entries from 28 counties. Get ready for the event of a lifetime.

Race 2: Dublin Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon, 4 August, Dublin city (21km)

Difficulty: 1 out of 3 (easiest) This half marathon is all about atmosphere. Live bands line the course to energise participants.

Why it rocks: No, running this half marathon with an electric guitar strapped to your chest is not compulsory. It’s actually the street party element that gives this race an injection of rock ’n’ roll. What could be better than crossing the finish line to the sounds of a live band? Popular with athletes from all over the world, the race is set in the heart of Ireland’s capital city and snakes through some of Dublin’s oldest streets and most historic landmarks. From Christ Church Cathedral to the Guinness Brewery, the Phoenix Park and the National Concert Hall, runners can experience a scenic tour that showcases the city’s diverse mix of culture, as well as enjoying the vivacious cheers of locals along the way.

Race 3: Achill Half Marathon, 5 July, Achill Island, County Mayo (21.9km)

Difficulty: 1 out of 3 (easiest)

This island race draws professional athletes from all over the world and challenges all levels of fitness.

Why it rocks: Yes, Achill Island is breathtaking, but it’s not your average holiday island. Sitting off the west coast of County Mayo, this little gem is a rugged beauty, with cliffs, mountains and sweeps of rust-coloured bogland. It’s also home to a very popular half marathon and 10km Run. The island’s vast mountain, bog and coastal trails ensure a varied race. The race starts and ends at the majestic Keel beach, and as you run around the island, the Atlantic Ocean will be your constant companion. Competitors come from all over the world including Spain, Norway, Holland and the US, with professional athletes as well as amateur runners taking part.

Race 4: Belfast City Marathon, 5 May, Belfast City Hall, Belfast (42km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

One of the biggest marathons in Ireland, weaving through the heart of Belfast.

Why it rocks: The Belfast City Marathon has been attracting runners from all over the world every year since 1982, and 20,000 participants now descend on this Titanic town to take part in the massive race. Setting off from Belfast City Hall, it winds through three unique routes, which are tailor-made for the different categories: marathon, 8-mile walk, team relay, wheelchair marathon, and fun run. A lot of this course is uphill, so you’ll be smiling when you’re handed an energy drink come the 11th hour. Marathon runners can attend a pasta party the night before the event, and a choice of parties across the city post-race.

Race 5: Newry City Marathon, 25 May, Hill Street, Newry, County Down/Armagh (42km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

A charming city marathon with an electric atmosphere.

Why it rocks: This marathon gives participants the chance to take in the historical sights of this ancient and vibrant city, where St Patrick himself is said to have visited in the 5th-century. The route trots along winding roads and footpaths, taking in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman – an architectural gem – and curving past a sea inlet once used by invading Vikings. As well as the marathon, there’s also a half marathon, a 10km walk and fun run on offer. This year’s course is flatter than previous years, so runners can expect a fast pace to be set the moment the starting pistol sounds. Last year’s speedy winner completed the course in two hours, fifteen minutes.

Race 6: Causeway Coast Marathon, 27 September, Causeway Coast Way, County Down (42km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

This course is about as diverse as it gets – bogs, cliffs and beaches are all included.

Why it rocks: Get ready – this “Ultra Marathon” is not for the faint-hearted, but in terms of rewarding runs, it’s certainly up there among the best – and most scenic – in the world. Stretching 60km along the world-famous Causeway Coast, this race puts contestants through their paces with challenging terrain that includes bogs, paths, steep cliffs and beaches. Last year there was nearly a thousand participants, with a winning time of five hours, thirty-four minutes. There’s also a marathon, half-marathon and 10km event to take part in. And the highlight? All events pass by the famous Giant’s Causeway. If you’re doing the marathon or ultra marathon, you’ll even get up close to the stones themselves. Magic.

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Race 7: Mourne Way Marathon, 7 June, Newcastle, County Down (42km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

An intense race that passes between the highest peaks in Ulster.

Why it rocks: The Mourne Way Marathon has a tendency to leave even the most conditioned runners breathless, as much from the scenery as the race itself. Nestled in the stunning Mourne Mountains, the marathon is set against a backdrop of striking peaks that include the highest summit in Ulster, Slieve Donard. Established in 2009 with 350 runners, the event has become one of the most popular trail races on the running calendar, now attracting more than 1,000 participants of every level. Ian Cumming, one of the event’s organisers, says, “The terrain and vantage points offered by the Mourne Way are truly spectacular.” Take it from us – he’s not wrong.

Race 8: Dublin Peaks, Date TBA, Ticknock, Dublin (36km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

The trail consists of five peaks. You plot your own way through, so have your compass at the ready.

Why it rocks: Kicking off at the outdoor playground that is Ticknock Wood, this 36km run is challenging, exhilarating and something properly different. The peaks comprise of unusually named Three-Rock, Fairy Castle, Kippure Mountain, Tirbradden (‘mountain of the house of Bródáin’ in Irish) and Cruagh Woods (Cruagh meaning ‘Hard’ in Irish). For a properly satisfying run, try and reach the top of all peaks. The trail can be completed on tracks, although the route can be hard to find so navigational skills are a must for anyone who wants tackle this it. Come prepared to conquer these granite giants and experience the Dublin Mountains up close.

Race 8: Glendalough Trail, 1 November, Glendalough, Laragh, County Wicklow (15.5km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

A picturesque race that combines uphill bursts with flat stretches.

Why it rocks: The Glendalough Trail isn’t the kind of race people want to finish in a hurry. Known as “the valley of the two lakes”, Glendalough weaves among an astonishing tapestry of natural beauty with over a thousand years of history and culture. One minute you’ll be running alongside an enormous glacial lake, the next, a monastic village from the 6th century. The 15.5km route meanders up steep woodland trails, and you should expect to climb over a tree branch or two as the course loops through the stunning Wicklow Mountains. With all this to take in, remember to keep your eyes on the race.

Race 10: Carrauntoohil, 31 May, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, County Kerry (13km)

Difficulty: 2 out of 3 (moderate)

Expect steep ascents – it’s the highest peak in Ireland, after all.

Why it rocks: Picture it: you’re standing atop the highest peak in Ireland, 1,050m above the ground. Below and all around you stretch the Kingdom of Kerry and the Atlantic Ocean. As one of the most dramatic of all the races on the island, the Carrauntoohil route is tough, gruelling and best tackled by experienced mountain runners. Throw in bouts of mist along the way up and down, and you can see how it has a reputation for being a thrill-seeker’s favourite. The distance may only be 12.5km, but the ascent is what really defines this unique race. Unforgettable.

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