Unleashing Ireland's Unique Terrain on the Global Stage

February 15, 2024

Francis Kelly, founder of Galway Trail Running, highlighted the rich history of running in Ireland and the unique advantages the country possesses in the world of trail running, in an exclusive interview with Run Republic. Drawing parallels to Ireland's success in traditional athletics, Kelly emphasized the potential for the nation to excel in trail running on the global stage.

Kelly started the conversation by acknowledging Ireland's strong running legacy, which dates back to the Olympics and legendary athletes like Eamonn Coghlan. He believes that the nation's history in running sets a solid foundation for Ireland to make a significant mark in the world of trail running.

One key element that Kelly pointed out is Ireland's distinctive terrain, which can provide a challenging and diverse experience for trail runners. Referring to locations such as the Seven Sisters in Donegal and the terrain in Connemara, Kelly highlighted the vast contrast to terrains found in more traditional trail running countries like Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Kelly shared his personal experience of moving abroad and how it took him six months to adjust to the different running conditions. He emphasized the challenge of transitioning from muddy and wet conditions in Ireland to the dusty and drier landscapes of Portugal and Spain etc. This adaptation, he believes, is a unique advantage that Irish runners have, being accustomed to running in challenging conditions that might be unfamiliar to international competitors.

Kelly brought attention to the Seven Sisters course in Donegal, which hosted a race as part of the World Mountain Running World Cup in 2022. This event attracted international runners to the rugged terrain of Ireland, offering them a unique and challenging experience. Kelly sees this as an opportunity for Ireland to showcase its natural beauty and challenging landscapes, inviting some of the world's best trail runners to compete on Irish soil.

According to Kelly, Ireland should leverage its challenging terrains, such as bogs and muddy conditions, to host races that attract top-tier international talent. He believes that even though Irish runners may not be as experienced as some of the global elites, they would excel on home turf due to their familiarity with the specific challenges presented by Irish landscapes.

Francis Kelly's insights shed light on the untapped potential of Ireland in the world of trail running. With a rich history in traditional running and a diverse landscape that sets it apart, Ireland could position itself as a global trail running destination. By hosting races that challenge even the most seasoned international runners, Ireland has an opportunity to shine on the world stage and establish itself as a trail running powerhouse

Featured Image: Daragh Morgan