an interesting article in the Telegraph newspaper last weekend about the sport of Fell Running in the UK. While it is more often called mountain running in Ireland, Fell Running has a much bigger following in the UK with plenty of races. The main difference of course is that the UK has roughly 62 million people as compared to some 4.5 million in Ireland. With a population of that size, there are always going to be more people involved in what might be termed minority sports.
I first came across fell runners in the UK when I was doing some hillwalking around Ben Nevis in Scotland. As the highest mountain in the UK, it is obviously like a magnet for walkers and runners alike and sure enough, I saw several people running up and down the mountain on the main route and they were just training! Out of many times I have been up on Carrountoohil which is Irelands highest mountain, I think I might have seen runners once so they're a rare species here indeed ;o)
So what is Fell Running? Essentially most events start at the base of a mountain...you run up to the top...and you run back down again. It is usually a lot more difficult than your usual type of road race in that you are not only competing against the other runners but in a sense, you are testing yourself against the mountain itself. On the way up, the fact that you are out of breath and with the build up of lactic acid in your legs, it means that your are going to be slow and it's a long slog. However, slow also means you as long as have warmed up properly, you won't get injured. Coming down though is a completely different story as you are often doing your best to stay upright without falling over. It's a lot rougher on the joints and this is the stage where most accidents happen. Obviously not a sport for everyone but it has it's fans!
The body for fell running / mountain running in Ireland is the Irish Mountain Running Association. They have a calendar of events all over the country with several in Munster. Most of the small Munster races might get around 30 entrants with a fairly diverse range of speeds. It's not just for fast or elite runners.The next event in Munster is on the Galtee Mountains on the 19th of February. I will add these races to the Cork and Munster Race Calendar as the year progresses if you are interested in trying one.
For more information on Fell Running, there is a book called Feet in the Clouds: A Story of Fell Running and Obsession