John Kelly Breaks Pennine Way Fastest Known Time

© Steve Ashworth

John Kelly has broken the 31-year-old Pennine Way fastest known time, with a time of 2 days, 16 hours and 46 minutes. The previous record for the 268-mile route, set by Mike Hartley in 2 days, 17 hours and 20 minutes, had stood since 1989.

Looming clouds behind John and his support team during the 2020 record run  © Steve Ashworth
Looming clouds behind John and his support team during the 2020 record run
© Steve Ashworth

John set off from Edale at 10am on Monday 13th July. He set off at this time to give himself the maximum amount of sleep – the plan was to have little, or even no sleep during the record attempt. But on Tuesday, John did have a nap at the turn before Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Over the second night, John fell behind his schedule by roughly 2 1/2 hours, although on Wednesday morning seemed to make a concerted effort to claw this time back. At this point, he was roughly 2 ½ hours ahead of the record pace, which isn't much over such a long distance and with many miles already in your legs.

He arrived at Kirk Yetholm at 2:46am, just over four hours after he had scheduled to be there. Like Mike Hartley on his 1989 record, John added the Cheviot, although interestingly the two ran the route in different directions, with Mike choosing a north to south approach.

One of the benefits of not running in an official race is the lack of mandatory kit  © Steve Ashworth
One of the benefits of not running in an official race is the lack of mandatory kit
© Steve Ashworth

John has run the route of the Pennine Way before when he won this years' Spine Race. His time was 3 days, 15 hours and 53 minutes, however, the race is held in mid-winter and participants have to deal with horrendous rain, snow, wind, and only eight hours of light per day. On John's record run, he had nearly 20 hours of light per day and good weather throughout.

Running the race in support of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, John had this to say before the race: 'I've always had a huge passion for kids, particularly those who have the cards stacked against them just by where, when, and how they happen to enter the world.

'I've had the enormous fortune of always knowing that my kids were going to come into a situation where I could provide for them, financially, educationally, and emotionally. But with that fortune comes the disheartening knowledge that that's pure luck for them while others get written off and have an uphill battle, whether due to their home situation or due to the system being biased. Life might not be fair, but giving people a fair start is something we should all aspire to, and that I hope any runner can relate to.'

You can donate on John's JustGiving page via his tracker here

For his next challenge, John is going to attempt the big three rounds - the Paddy Buckley, the Bob Graham and the Charlie Ramsey - consecutively and aiming to complete each under 24 hours. He also aims to cycle between each and finish the whole challenge under 100 hours. This is roughly 185 miles of running with 84k feet of elevation gain, and over 400 miles of biking. He is looking to attempt this in a month.

In 2017, John became the 15th finisher of the infamous Barkley Marathons - a gruelling 100-mile race in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee. The race became famous after the fantastic documentary 'The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.' The race is unique in the sense that it features some very unusual rules; runners must submit an essay on 'Why I should be allowed to run in the Barkley,' pay a $1.60 entry fee and if accepted, the runner receives a letter of condolence. John aimed to run the Barkley again this year, although the race did not go ahead, so he completed it solo.

The past week has been fairly sensational for dot watchers, with Kim Collison breaking the Lakes 24-hour record and Sabrina Verjee putting in an outstanding effort on the Wainwrights.

John is sponsored by: La Sportiva

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I don't know about anyone else, but I'm exhausted just from the dot watching.

It really has been an exhilarating week as far as FKTs are concerned, with John breaking the Pennine Way Record, Kim Collison breaking the long standing Lakes 24hr Record, and Sabrina Verjee becoming the first woman to complete the Wainwright Round.

Impressive on each and every level, not least because of the length of time some of those records have stood for (and the concept of keeping going for six days straight).

16 Jul, 2020

Why have there been so many broken records lately? is it a post-lockdown rebound?

16 Jul, 2020
Probably because most of these athletes are usually training for and/or competing in organised events. None of those are on so FKT’s on routes that either aren’t on race calendars or feature mandatory kit lists are a good compromise. Plus they will still have been training hard and need to use the fitness. Impressive stuff.
16 Jul, 2020

I'm probably talking rubbish but why doesn't this kind of runner go to the Olympics? Are fell-runners generally not interested or does fell running not translate well to the flatter runs at the Olympics? I suppose the runs at the Olympics are a lot shorter than the big fell runs. Could an Olympic marathon runner do well on the BGR?

16 Jul, 2020

Probably because they can’t run fast enough.

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