Elevating Spirits: The Ascent of Mountain Running in Ireland

March 05, 2024

In a recent interview with Run Republic, Richard Nunan of the Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) shed light on the popularity of mountain running in Ireland. According to Nunan, there has been a sustained momentum building up in recent years since roughly the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons. The rise of mountain running, however, is not isolated; it is intertwined with the ebb and flow of other outdoor sports like triathlon and adventure racing.

Nunan pointed out that the surge in popularity of mountain running gained even more traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. As people navigated the challenges of lockdowns and social distancing, a newfound appreciation for the outdoors blossomed. The desire to reconnect with nature and seek solace in the open spaces spurred an interest in mountainous terrains, hills, and trail running. It became a way for individuals to escape the confines of indoor spaces and embrace the freedom offered by nature

The growing emphasis on the mental health benefits of outdoor activities played a pivotal role in driving people towards mountain running. The fact that spending time in nature can have positive effects on mental well-being gained momentum during the pandemic. As restrictions lifted, individuals sought alternative ways to maintain their mental health, and the allure of the mountains became increasingly irresistible. Mountain running offered a unique blend of physical exertion, breathtaking landscapes, and a sense of accomplishment that resonated with those looking for a holistic approach to well-being.

IMRA, the organisation spearheading mountain running in Ireland, played a crucial role in fostering this newfound interest. Nunan highlighted that the association experienced an upswing in volunteers post-COVID, enabling them to organise more races. The increased number of events provided a platform for both seasoned runners and novices to experience the thrill of mountain running. IMRA's commitment to creating opportunities for people to connect with nature through running has undoubtedly contributed to the sport's surging popularity.

Nunan highlighted the sense of community that blossoms within the mountain running scene. Attendees at races discovered a supportive and like-minded community that extended beyond the finish line. This communal spirit became a driving force for many to continue participating in mountain running events. The shared passion for the outdoors, combined with the camaraderie among participants, created an environment where everyone felt welcomed and motivated to pursue their mountain running journey.

The popularity of mountain running in Ireland is a multifaceted phenomenon influenced by changing trends in outdoor sports, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the emphasis on mental health. IMRA's role in organising events and fostering a sense of community has played a pivotal role in sustaining this momentum. As more individuals seek the physical and mental benefits of outdoor activities, mountain running seems poised to remain a significant and thriving facet of Ireland's running landscape.

Featured Image: Lianne van Dijk