Ed Leahy gets tough...

Holidaying at home is no longer taboo and while the weather cannot be guaranteed for relaxing by the seaside, an adventure break will offer you a memorable, if sometimes arduous, journey through the magnificent Irish countryside or urban landscape. Adverse weather conditions might just add to the adventure and getting fit is a pleasant side-effect. Here is just a selection of the best adventure races taking place in Ireland throughout the year:

Westport Sea2Summit (Mayo, November 9)
When the elite athletes are clocking times of over three hours, you know a gruelling test is in store if you take on the Westport Sea2Summit challenge. Running to the top of Croagh Patrick and back down again is only part of this exhausting race, as the following cycle involves gradients of up to 25 per cent, while the finishing four-kilometre run back to Westport takes you on an obstacle course and a sea run. The race takes in part of the impressive Greenway off-road cycle path that runs from Achill to Westport, and the views of Clew Bay from the top of Croagh Patrick will make it all worthwhile. A great night out in one of Ireland's party capitals, Westport, is another reward for taking on and completing the course. www.westportsea2summit.ie

Turf Warrior Challenge (Galway, May 25)
If the thoughts of running a 10-kilometre race is just a little bit too mundane for your liking, why not take it to a new level by incorporating an obstacle course to add to the adventure, where you will encounter lots of mud, climbing, swinging, leaps into the Atlantic and all kinds of other mayhem and madness. This new summer event will run for the first time on May 25. The Turf Warrior Challenge winter event also takes place on November 2. The Turf Warrior event is held on the most challenging and rugged terrain Ireland has to offer on the banks of Killary Fjord, Leenane. Free entry to the themed party at Killary Adventure Company is included for all warriors, so you can get together for a well-earned drink, once you've scrubbed the mud from your ears, eyes and every other body part. www.turfwarriorchallenge.com

Dublin City Marathon (Dublin, October 28)
It might be considered a bit old school for the new breed of adventure and adrenalin junkies around Ireland, but the Dublin City Marathon still provides the ultimate test for an athlete, running 26 miles through the street of the capital city. This year's race will be the 33rd running of the event and should attract up to 10,000 participants, with a large number travelling from overseas to take part. The race takes place annually on the October Bank Holiday, which is always a lively weekend in the city centre. The marathon is always run on the Monday so if you want to enjoy the Halloween celebrations in Dublin, you might be advised to leave it until after the run is completed. www.dublinmarathon.ie

Gaelforce West (Mayo, August 17)
One of the most prominent adventure races in Ireland, the Gaelforce West challenge is renowned as the largest one-day adventure race in Europe. A very testing 67-kilometre course awaits as you traverse the west coast from Glassilaun beach to Westport, passing Killary Harbour and Croagh Patrick. The route involves cycling, running, hiking and kayaking and it is safe to say that you will get wet and dirty as you trek through bogs and along mountain paths. Organisers suggest that you should be able to complete the race in eight hours and there is a cut-off point for competitors who do not reach Croagh Patrick within the allocated time. www.gaelforceevents.com/west

Great Fjord Swim (Mayo, October 12)
The boat trip to the starting line will let you know what you are in for as you take on this swim across the deep Atlantic waters of Killary Fjord. There are two options for this race and thankfully neither is to swim the entire 16-kilometres of the fjord, rather a two-kilometre or a 750-metre distance. Surrounded by mountains, Killary sits on the border of Mayo and Galway and offers great views of Mweelrea, Connacht's highest mountain, as well as the dramatic scenery of the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens. The water in October will be very chilly so wetsuits are compulsory. www.thegreatfjordswim.com

Killarney Adventure Race (Kerry, October 5)
Race amidst some of the most breathtaking, scenic sights in the country as you run, hike, cycle and kayak throughout the hills and lakes of Killarney. The Killarney Adventure Race takes place in October and offers three different route options to suit all levels of fitness. The 67-kilometre route consists of five stages, including a 7km mountain run, 35kms on a bike through the majestic Gap of Dunloe, 1,500 metres in a kayak around Muckross Lake, before another mountain run and short cycle to finish. The event can also be completed as a relay race. www.killarneyadventurerace.ie

Titanic Quarter 101 (Belfast, September 8)
Fancy running 50-odd kilometres out of Belfast, turning around and running back to whence you came? This 100-kilometre urban run was initiated to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage and will increase by one kilometre every year. The route out of Belfast will take you past some of the city's greatest landmarks, and around the famous Belfast docklands, passing the spectacular Titanic museum. Leaving Belfast the race travels out along the north County Down coast to Donaghadee, where the 50km runners will join in for the run back to the Titanic Quarter. A shorter, 25km run is an option for the part-timers. www.26extreme.com

Skerries Triathlon (Dublin, June 23)
Take on an Olympic-length triathlon in Skerries, which involves swimming 1,500 metres in the open sea, cycling a 40-kilometre route before completing a 10-kilometre beachfront run. The swim is a triangular route off the main strand in Skerries, while the cycle takes you up the well-known Black Hills and the run loops out and back along the Skerries seafront and around the peninsula with a mixture of surfaces including footpath and grass, but, thankfully for participants, avoids the sandy beach. The Sprint triathlon is a great introduction for novices to the sport, while there is also a half-distance race. www.dublintri.com/triathlon-skerries

Connemarathon (Galway, April 2014)
Described as "the most scenic half marathon" in the world, the course meanders past bogs, hills, lakes, and the Twelve Pin mountains rising up over the great expanse of Killary Lough, through the quiet village of Leenane, around the Maumturk Mountains and all the way back up to Maam Cross. The event encompasses an Ultra (39.3 miles), Full (26.2 miles), and Half (13.1 miles) distance. The race takes place in April every year, so plenty of time to start the training, although keep an eye on the website for entry forms as the event is usually a sell-out. www.connemarathon.com

Achill Roar (Mayo, September 7)
Set on the spectacular Achill Island, the one-day event offers three races for every level. The Expert Roar race involves a swim of 1,000 metres or a kayak paddle for three kilometres, followed by a 15-kilometre run around the west coast island, with a testing 45km cycle to finish. The Sport course is roughly half the Expert equivalent, while the Mini Roar is a mere, 200m swim, five-kilometre run and 12km bike ride. Take a couple of days after the race to enjoy the beauty of Achill and make sure to visit the spectacular Keem Beach and enjoy the famous Island nightlife. www.roar.ie

Ed Leahy

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