John Kelly Breaks Pennine Way Record - AgainNewsflash

© Steve Ashworth

For the second time in less than a year, John Kelly has set a new speed record on the Pennine Way. John's time for the 268-mile route now stands at 2 days, 10 hours and 4 minutes, and restores the Pennine Way title to the UK-based American runner.

John Kelly and some very capable support runners on one of the flagstone-paved sections of the Pennine Way  © Steve Ashworth
John Kelly and some very capable support runners on one of the flagstone-paved sections of the Pennine Way
© Steve Ashworth

Today's record comprehensively beats the previous fastest time of 2 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes set by Damian Hall in July 2020.

During an explosion in ultra running speed records that took place over last year's summer hiatus between lockdowns, the Pennine Way record changed hands between the two runners in rapid succession, when John Kelly first recorded a time of 2 days, 16 hours and 46 minutes on 16th July 2020, only to see his effort bettered two weeks later by Damian Hall.    

The 'rivalry' between the two could best be described as good humoured:

Setting off on the morning of Saturday 15th May from Kirk Yetholm, and running the route north to south, John maintained a fast pace throughout. Avid dot watchers tracked his progress over the weekend, as he stayed comfortably ahead of both his own schedule and Damian Hall's 2020 times all the way.  

John Kelly has quite a history with the Pennine Way, having also won 2020's Spine Race. His time for that was 3 days, 15 hours and 53 minutes - however, that race is held in mid-winter when participants have to deal with far more challenging conditions and only eight hours of light per day.

During his new record run, John of course had a lot more daylight to play with, though the weather was wet at times. Conditions were described as 'constantly grim' with heavy showers and poor visibility. Kelly's strategy was to keep moving; after 48 hours he had snatched only around an hour's rest, so sleep deprivation began to take its toll in the closing stages.

Running through the night, on minimal sleep  © Steve Ashworth
Running through the night, on minimal sleep
© Steve Ashworth

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John Kelly
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17 May, 2021

An incredible run, and (I may regret typing this) but a record which I think will stand for a long time. One minor editorial point UKC, you describe John's run as a record, but that Damian held the Fastest Know Time, if someone records the times, it's a record, lets use nice straight forward English so everyone knows what we are talking about. John has broken the record, to suggest that it is a FKT is like describing Everest as the BKM.

17 May, 2021

Not the best analogy, seeing as Everest can be categorically and unarguably measured as the highest. A better analogy would be describing the 1953 ascent as the FKA, or Honnold's most famous solo as the First Known Solo of El Cap.

There comes a point at which the likelihood of a 'better' unknown achievement is so vanishingly small it may, and probably should, be assumed it's never happened. The difficulty, of course, is in deciding where that point should be.

17 May, 2021

Everest is the highest in altitude, but Mauna Loa is higher from its base, and Chimborazo's summit is the furthest from the centre of the earth. So depends on how you measure....

Anyway, an amazing endurance effort. I can't imagine covering that distance in 2.5 weeks, let alone 2.5 days.

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