We start the new year with renewed optimism about our health and fitness goals. But how many of us are already flagging, and it’s not even mid-January? No matter how well-intended we are, new year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to stick to. This is in part because we often set goals that are too vague, or too daunting.
“Get fit” or “lead a healthier lifestyle” are exactly the kind of unspecific resolutions that are difficult to achieve. But identifying and committing to a solid goal is more likely to result in a tangible achievement when the ball drops on another year.
Signing up for an event is the best way to keep you on track. There is nothing like the fear of an upcoming race or group activity to ensure you don’t talk yourself out of that training run, cycle or swim when you really don’t feel like it. And trust us: you will never regret heading out into the fresh air, once you manage to lace up those trainers and get yourself out the door.
There is no shortage of amazing outdoor events to sign up to around the country in 2023. Whether you are a runner, swimmer, cyclist, triathlete, adventure racer or hiker, already fit and experienced or only just starting out, there is something out there to suit you.
Here are 25 great events to sign up for in 2023.
March 24th-26th, wanderwildfestival.com
Taking place in the stunning setting of Killarney National Park, Wander Wild is the country’s one and only outdoors festival. Over the course of the weekend, you can expect everything an outdoor lover of any age and fitness level could wish for, from guided nature walks and cycles to a trail running race, rock climbing in the MacGillicuddy’s Reeks to kayaking on Muckross Lake, film events, photography workshops, exhibitions and so much more for all the family.
Women With Altitude
Organised by Mountaineering Ireland, the Women With Altitude initiative began in 2011, aiming to increase women’s skills and confidence on the hills and mountains around Ireland. The weekend consists of both instructional and self-directed hikes and activities, along with a number of talks and workshops. Women With Altitude also provides a platform for the many female mountaineering role models we have in Ireland, and the event is an ideal opportunity to meet like-minded women.
Connemara Mountain Walking Festival
September 9-10th, galwaytourism.ie
Taking place on the shores of Killary Fjord in Leenane, Co Mayo, the Connemara Mountain Walking Festival offers you the chance to walk along some of the most spectacular trails that the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer.
The walks are all clearly graded with something to suit all levels of ability and fitness. Each walk will start in Leenane, and buses will be waiting to collect walkers from the end of their hikes. Tea and coffee will also be provided, offering you the chance to socialise with your fellow hikers. All of the festival’s hikes are led by professional guides, all highly trained mountain leaders.
Boyne Valley Walking Festival
The Boyne Valley Walking Festival offers a wide selection of hikes and activities. From entry-level beach walks to history trails and more challenging hill hikes, there is something to suit all levels of fitness at the festival. The action doesn’t stop on the trails; by night there is a fantastic line-up of events, including talks and a whiskey tour of Drogheda.
Carlow Walking Festival
September 30th-October 2nd, carlowtourism.com
All roads lead to Carlow for the Autumn Walking Festival. Amble along the River Barrow or tackle one of the magnificent Blackstairs Mountains with a selection of 17 graded walks to choose from over the weekend. Immerse yourself in thousands of years of history in Ireland’s Ancient East, or find inner peace on a mindful meditation walk in the stunning Altamont Gardens.
The IMRA Summer League
Weekly from April-August, imra.ie
Every Wednesday night from April to August, the Irish Mountain Running Association puts on a race. Open to runners of all abilities, from the top trail runners in Ireland to the have-a-go-heroes, there is always a friendly welcome at these races. The races take place on a mix of open mountain and more sheltered forest trails. Each is followed by a prize giving at a local pub or car park, giving you the chance to socialise with your fellow runners. Once you are an IMRA member, it costs just €7 to enter each race.
Sliabh Liag Adventure Run
May 6th-7th, excelsports.events
One of the newest and most exciting events to hit the Irish adventure calendar is the Sliabh Liag Adventure Run. Traversing the trails surrounding the highest sea cliffs in Europe, this race is one to bring the camera on. The event takes place over two days, offering a variety of distances to suit all runners. The organisers at Excel Sport have added a 50km ultra and a 5km uphill-only challenge to the existing 13km and 25km distances, all of which take place on the same course so nobody misses out on the views.
July 15th, imra.ie
Perhaps one of the toughest races on the mountain running calendar in Ireland, the Reeks Skyline takes in the magnificent MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in its entirety, summiting Carrauntoohil twice. The 24km race includes a staggering 2,400m of climbing, so it’s not one for the faint-hearted and requires pre-entry approval by the Irish Mountain Running Association. You will be in awe of the landscape as you traverse some of Ireland’s highest mountains. If you are up to the challenge, this is definitely one for the bucket list.
September 30th, wicklow.ecotrail.com
EcoTrail Wicklow is fast becoming one of the most popular trail running races on the Irish calendar. Kicking off from the Bray promenade, the race offers you the choice of 80km, 45km, 30km and 18km routes, all of which do not disappoint when it comes to stunning scenery. There is always a buzz around this event, and is a great challenge to work towards over the course of the year.
June 3rd, triathy.ie
The Tri Athy event caters to triathletes of all levels, and even offers events at four different distances. Tri-Distance is a shorter event aimed at those wanting to give triathlon a go. Sprint-Distance is a short yet challenging offering. The standard Olympic and double Olympic distances are perfect for those looking to try out a longer distance event without jumping straight into a full-distance. One of the most appealing elements of this event is the swim, which goes with the flow of the River Barrow, making it the perfect triathlon for beginners who may be apprehensive.
Tri the Hook
August 19th, www.trithehook.com/
Tri the Hook is one of the more challenging yet rewarding sprint distance triathlons on offer in Ireland. The route is more difficult than the distances (750m swim, 22.2km cycle, 5.3km run) suggest. Both the cycle and the run take in some sharp ascents around the cliffs of Baginbun Bay. But your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular views, and great craic in the pub afterwards.
August 20th, More info
Widely known to be one of the most challenging mass participation sporting events in the world, Ironman will push you to your limit. This event will kick off in the town of Youghal in Co Cork with a 3.9km swim followed by a 180km bike ride and a 42.2km run. The cycle will comprise two laps, while the run is four, which makes it a great event for spectators, who add to the electric atmosphere on the day.
August 26th, More info
The Hardman Triathlon Wild Atlantic Way series is one of the best ways to experience Europe’s most scenic coastal route. Whether you’re looking for the instant hit of a sprint triathlon, the buzz of an Olympic triathlon, the thrill of a half-iron distance, or the challenge of a full-distance triathlon, the Hardman series has an event for you. The biggest event of the Hardman series, in terms of distance, is the Hardman itself. You start with the swim in the Lakes of Killarney (3.8km) before cycling the full length of the legendary Ring of Kerry (180km) with views that are out of this world. After all that, the full marathon takes you through Killarney National Park.
April 1st, More info
Quest Glendalough is a well-known one-day multi-sport race that involves running, cycling and kayaking around the stunning Wicklow Mountains. The race starts and finishes in the iconic Glendalough Valley, in the shadow of the monastic round tower. Offering up three distances (21km, 43km and 59km), there is something for all levels of fitness and experience, making this the ideal choice for adventure racing virgins. What makes the different distance options special is that you can do the event with a loved one or family member without having to do the same distance. In addition to incredible scenery throughout each of the courses, you can also expect a legendary after party to reward your hard work.
Dingle Adventure Race
June 10th, More info
If you are looking for stunning scenery coupled with a lively night out afterwards then the Dingle Adventure Race might be just the ticket. Offering three distances (21km, 43km and 73km), the race is suitable for everyone from total beginners to experienced adventure racers. The 73km offers a particularly tough challenge, with a course that includes a 25km cycle around Slea Head and a 15km run up Mt Brandon.
Quest Lough Derg
September 9th, More info
Taking place in Ballina/Killaloe, Quest Lough Derg gives you the opportunity to race around some of Ireland’s most iconic waterways, kayak on majestic Lough Derg and run along the banks of the mighty Shannon. Offering a 22km course, 45km course and 69km course along terrain that is challenging but not too daunting, it’s the perfect race for those looking to dip their toe into adventure racing for the first time. A free after party ticket and food voucher are included with your entry.
November, More info
One of the last adventure races in the season in Ireland is the iconic Westport Sea2Summit race. This event usually takes place in November, but at the time of writing, the exact date for this year is still to be confirmed. As the name suggests, this race involves a lot of elevation gain, as you will summit mighty Croagh Patrick along the way. There are two race distances – the Sport course and the Sprint course – which are further divided into advanced, intermediate and beginner waves, so people of all abilities are welcome.
The Great Fjord Swim, Connemara
September 9th, More info
This open-water swim is one of the best water-based events on the calendar. Taking place in the deep waters of Killary Fjord surrounded by the mountains of Mayo and Connemara, the event offers three distances – 3.9km, 2km, and 750m. Competitors in the longer events can choose to swim in togs or wetsuits (it’s wetsuits only for the 750m). Swimmers in the 2km and 750m are brought out into the middle of the fjord by boat from which they launch themselves when the starting siren sounds.
Swim in Pink for the National Breast Cancer Research Institute
October, More info
Swim in Pink is a fun-filled event attracting swimmers and dippers from all over the country. Taking place on the last weekend of October to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the event will see thousands of people, dressed in pink, take to the icy seas, lakes and rivers of Ireland. In addition to raising money for a great cause, this event always promises to be a great day out. All registered participants get a free pink pom pom beanie hat.
The Liffey Swim
September, More info
Running since 1920, the Liffey Swim is Ireland’s most iconic swimming event. Because of this, securing an entry is no easy feat. But if you are hoping to improve your swimming in 2023, it’s a great event to aim for as you will have to complete five open-water swimming races to be eligible for entry. The race starts at the Watling Street Bridge near the Guinness Brewery and takes competitors past landmarks such as the Four Courts, under the Ha’penny Bridge and O’Connell Bridge to finish at the Custom House. Like all open water swimming races, the Liffey Swim is handicapped meaning the slowest swimmers start first and continue in waves, with the fastest swimmers entering the water last.
Glendalough National Park Swim, Co Wicklow
3rd June 3rd, More info
This event offers you the chance to swim in one of Ireland’s most iconic lakes. Taking place in the dark yet pristine waters of Glendalough National Park, there is something for all levels of swimmer over the course of the weekend. On Saturday you can choose from a 750m or 1.5km course or you can take on the 3.9km challenge on the Sunday.
Wild Mayo Ultra
May 12th, More info
Offering three different courses, the Wild Mayo Ultra is not for the faint of heart. The 650km is the maddest of the lot, and takes in a full lap of Co Mayo. The Furnace 300km takes in all of the coastal roads and iconic climbs of the 650 but is achievable in daylight hours, while the 200km is a more manageable route that will still be a challenge for experienced cyclists. This event is guaranteed to test your resolve while giving a fresh perspective of the glorious Mayo coastline.
Ring of Beara Cycle
May 27th, More info
Taking place on the rugged Beara Peninsula, cyclists will embark on a challenging 110km or 140km route which encompasses the magnificent mountains, valleys and the rugged coastline of this little-visited gem in west Cork. Cyclists pass through picturesque and quaint towns enjoying food and music (the drummers on Caha Pass were a personal favourite of ours last year), and chatting at the food stations dotted along the route.
The 40th edition of the iconic Wicklow 200 will take place this June. Starting in Bray, the course offers a great day out for those who aren’t afraid to spend a long day in the saddle. Taking in lots of punchy climbs as it winds its way across the Garden of Ireland, this event is not for the faint-hearted. If you don’t feel up to the full 200km course, there is a 100km option on offer too.
May-September, More info
When it comes to outdoor events for mountain bikers, Gravity Enduro is a must-do. This five-round Enduro competition has 13 categories to suit a wide variety of bikers, including kids, youth, pro and hardtail. The competition is based on the biker’s individual times on downhill mountain bike segments, while the uphills are not timed. This series is a must-try for those seeking a good day out on the bike without too much racing pressure.
Heather Snelgar and Matthew McConnell write for outsider.ie