Five Great Irish Running Documentaries

Five Great Irish Running Documentaries

Whether you’re looking for inspiration to get you running or you want something to unwind with after a hard training session, it’s always fun to watch a great running video and they’re easier than ever to find online. However, considering how passionate we are about running in Ireland, you might be surprised by how few Irish running videos you come across online. In this article, we share five great running documentaries, either made in Ireland or with an obvious Irish connection.

All but one are free to watch (as of 23-9-2021). If you know any other Irish running videos, please let us know!


1. Coming Home / Ag Teacht Abhaile (2019, 23 mins)


Growing up in Wexford, Paddy O’Leary played Gaelic football, before moving on to lacrosse as a student at UCD. It was only when he moved to San Francisco in 2013 that he fell in love with trail and ultra running. With an impressive string of competitive results under his belt, including a 2:20 marathon, O’Leary is an athlete of exceptional ability. This short film by Dylan Ladds and Ryan Scura documents O’Leary’s attempt to achieve the fastest known time (FKT) on the Wicklow Round, a looped long-distance course over 100km in length that covers 26 peaks in Wicklow. It’s a beautifully shot film that captures the wild beauty of the Wicklow Mountains as well as the camaraderie and positivity of the Irish mountain running community. O’Leary himself is such a likable protagonist that it’s impossible not to get behind him as he strives to add his name to the list of acclaimed runners who have set FKTs on this epic round.

Alternative links: YouTube, Vimeo


2. Turtles & Hares (2019, 57 minutes)


Inspirational is a label that’s applied to many elite athletes, but in David Carrie’s case, the word is uniquely apt. In 2010, having retired from a successful career in international competition, Carrie took on a new challenge: to lead a group of complete beginners from the village of Dunleer, Co. Louth to run in – and complete – the Dublin Marathon. Each year since then, Team Carrie Marathon Runners has brought a fresh cohort of recruits through the same transformative journey. To date, its members have completed almost 1000 marathons. This film captures the sense of community that binds the group together and propels so many of its members across a finish line many never dreamed they could reach. The most important thing that a club provides – the camaraderie of running in a group – is a joy that every runner should experience, no matter how far or how fast they run. Best of all, this documentary shows that club running is for all runners – no matter what level of ability. Anyone who ever thought about joining a running club, but wasn’t sure if they were fast enough or strong enough, should see this film.

Unfortunately, the clip above is only the trailer. The full movie can be rented from Amazon or Vimeo.


3. Man on a Mission (2012, 52 mins)


Originally hailing from Mallow in Co. Cork, Brother Colm O’Connell traveled to Iten in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya in 1976 to spend three months teaching geography at St Patrick’s High School. Despite having no prior experience, he became involved in athletics coaching and, having decided to stay in Iten for good, he has since come to be known as “the Godfather of Kenyan running”. Incredibly, 25 of his students have become world champions and four are Olympic gold medal winners. In this documentary, directed by Maurice Sweeney, Irish running legend Eamonn Coghlan travels to Iten to meet Br O’Connor and to try to understand the phenomenal success of Kenya’s athletes. Among others, Coghlan meets with his own running hero Kip Keino, as well as world champion David Rudisha.

Alternative links: YouTube, Vimeo,

4. Paul Tierney: Running the Wainwrights (2019, 62 mins)

Paul Tierney – Running The Wainwrights from Dave MacFarlane on Vimeo.

The Wainwrights are a set of 214 “fells” (i.e. mountain peaks) included by writer Alfred Wainwright in his seven-volume guide to England’s Lake District. They form a kind of checklist for walkers, who may try to climb all of them over a period of months or years. This documentary follows Paul Tierney, an endurance runner and running coach from Co. Cork, in his 2019 attempt to break Steve Birkinshaw’s speed record for a continuous round of all 214 peaks (6 days and 13 hours, set in 2014). Those attempting the record customarily begin and end at Keswick Moot Hall, but apart from that, no particular route is specified. Tierney follows Birkinshaw’s 328-mile route, which includes 36,000 metres of ascent.

Tierney’s competitive record is impressive, but he describes his own ability in self-deprecating terms, noting that many long-distance speed records such as the iconic Bob Graham Round would be unrealistic targets for him. What appealed to him, he says, about attempting the Wainwrights record was that it meant “going longer instead of faster,” and as this documentary unfolds, we see just what he means! Through 328 miles of hard climbing, sleep deprivation, unforgiving terrain, horrific weather and eye-watering wear and tear on his feet and body, Tierney just keeps pushing relentlessly forward.

It’s really only possible to break a record like this with the support of an experienced and dedicated team and one of the nicest aspects of this film is that we see how a large group of friends and fellow runners enthusiastically support Tierney’s attempt. The film features former record-holders Steve Birkinshaw and Joss Naylor, who support Tierney in his quest, as well as Chris Bonington and the legendary Nicky Spinks.

Alternative link: YouTube

5. The Running Man (2011, 37 mins)


Caroline Brennan’s documentary tracks the career of ultra runner John O’Regan, with a particular focus on his participation as a member of the Irish team in the 2010 IAU 24 Hour World & European Championships in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France. The film, which also features his teammates Eoin Keith, Thomas Maguire, Eddie Gallen and Richard Donovan, provides a fascinating glimpse into just what it takes to get through a grueling event like this. In addition to his many achievements in running, O’Regan will be known to many as host of the No Finish Line podcast, which features interviews with some of Ireland’s best-known ultra runners.

Alternative link: Vimeo

Got any more you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!


Article written by Ted Burke


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