Cultivating a Love for Mountain Running: IMRA Munster's Push to Engage Junior Participants

March 08, 2024

IMRA Munster Chairperson Robbie Williams shed light on the organisation's dedicated efforts to involve junior participants in mountain running in Ireland. Williams discussed the challenges faced in reaching out to younger athletes and emphasised the want and need for young blood to join the mountain running family.

One of the main hurdles in getting juniors involved in mountain running lies in the difficulty of liaising with them for race advertising. Unlike other sports where communication can be direct, mountain running faces the challenge of competing with soccer, GAA, and other mainstream activities. However, Williams noted that once juniors give mountain running a try, they often fall in love with it and experience a great sense of accomplishment.

To address the challenge of reaching out to juniors, Williams mentioned an old initiative that could potentially be revived, formerly referred to as a schools day. In the past, this event brought together groups of schools for a trail race, typically around 1 km, in a forestry setting. The aim is to provide juniors with a hands-on experience of running at the school level, fostering an interest that could then extend to participation in IMRA races.

Williams expressed optimism about the potential impact of such school events, creating a school championship atmosphere to introduce young athletes to the world of mountain running and forestry races. This initiative aims to provide juniors with insights into the sport, making it more accessible and encouraging their participation in IMRA races in the future.

Williams highlighted the current age profile of mountain runners, indicating that the predominant cohort falls within the late 30s to early 50s age range. However, he pointed out the remarkable diversity within the sport, with runners well into their 70s and 80s participating competitively. The unique challenges posed by mountain running may contribute to a more extended athletic lifespan, as compared to other forms of running.

IMRA Munster also organises kids races for children aged between six and ten, providing them with a taste of mountain running at an early age. Parents often join in, fostering a supportive environment for the young participants. The hope is that by cultivating a love for the sport at an early age, more young individuals will develop an interest in mountain running and potentially transition to more competitive events as they grow older.

The efforts of IMRA Munster reflect a commitment to expanding the reach of mountain running to younger generations. School events, organising kids races, and creating opportunities for juniors to experience the unique challenges and joys of mountain running, the organisation is paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse future for this sport in Ireland.

Featured Image: Matthew Branch