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Ultra runner John Kelly sets new record for 261-mile Pennine Way – again

Written by Fiona

May 20 2021

Ultra runner John Kelly has again set a record for the UK’s 261-mile Pennine Way. He completed the national trail in two days, 10 hours and 4 minutes.

Just 10 months ago, the UK-based American athlete had beaten what was then a 31-year-old record by traversing the long-distance in two days, 16 hours and 46 minutes, only for friend and rival Damian Hall to snatch a quicker time a mere eight days later. 

It was obviously unfinished business, and John, a La Sportiva team member, set off from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders at 9am on Saturday May 15, running in the opposite direction to the previous year. He arrived at the finish at Edale in Derbyshire at 7:04pm on Monday evening.

John had set a fast early pace, immediately gaining time on his schedule. Conditions proved very mixed, however, with weather described as “constantly grim”. There were heavy rain showers and this resulted in poor visibility.

His strategy was to keep moving. After 48 hours he had stopped for only an hour’s rest in total. Sleep deprivation inevitably began to take its toll in the closing stages of the challenge. 

John running the Pennine Way. Credit: Steve Ashworth
John showed huge determination to return to the Pennine Way. Credit: Steve Ashworth

On Facebook yesterday, John revealed he was “a bit tired” after the record-breaking run. He posted a montage of many of the people who had supported him on the run.

John added: “I am not quite sure what to post. But I think no picture could actually capture a 260-mile adventure better than the people who made it possible.

“Unfortunately, there are some people missing here, including @ultra_damo (Damian Hall), whose record setting run last year is what made me think sub-60 hours was possible and gave me the courage to target it.

“My new record of 58:04:53 is shared collectively by these people and those who came before… After I do more sleeping and eating, I’ll make some posts on the run and experience itself.” Follow John Kelly on social media.

John Kelly is greeted by his wife at the finish of his record run on the Pennine Way. Credit: Steve Ashworth

The Pennine Way – and the records

Acclaimed as the oldest and one of the best known UK national trails, the Pennine Way stretches form England to Scotland.

Many strong and well-known runners had attempted to break Mike Hartley’s 1989 record, before John beat the time by 34 minutes. However, just eight days later, Damian Hall bettered Kelly’s time by more than three hours.

John is a well-known ultra-runner, having previously established a men’s record time for the Spine Race, a winter ultramarathon along the Pennine Way and he is also a winner of the legendary Barkley Marathons in the US.

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