John Kelly Reclaims Pennine Way Title

John Kelly has once again run the fastest known time on the Pennine Way. He retook the record by posting a time more than three hours faster than arch-rival Damien Hall, who seized Kelly’s previous record last year.

The cat-and-mouse game began last year when Kelly broke Mike Hartley’s long-standing 1989 time. He ran the 435km English trail in 64 hours and 40 minutes, besting Hartley by 40 minutes. “I’ve made a bit of a habit of setting out to do things that I’m not sure are possible,” the American ultrarunner said at the time.

Then Hall came seemingly out of nowhere and beat Kelly’s record just eight days later. It took Hall 61 hours and 34 minutes to finish the Pennine Way.

They might come across as competitive men who are dissatisfied that the other has stolen their glory. The truth, however, is far different. In their minds, they are playing a fierce game of pushing their personal limits. Outwardly, they seem to be immensely grateful to other runners who push them.

Shortly before he set off, Kelly hinted on Instagram that he had “a crack at reclaiming the record”.

Kelly’s new time of 58 hours and 4 minutes is three-and-a-half hours faster than Hall’s — another big gulp out of the old record.

Just one hour’s sleep

Running the trail north to south this time, Kelly endured heavy showers and poor visibility. He maintained a consistent pace from beginning to end, and snatched just one hour of sleep, 48 hours into the race. His strategy was simple: keep moving.

“A solitary, peaceful run in wintry conditions is one of my favorite things,” said Kelly.

Just keep moving: Kelly keeps pace, despite “grim conditions”. Photo: Run247

 

Kelly is familiar with hostile conditions here. In 2020, he won the Spine Race, widely regarded as one of the toughest of all endurance races. It too follows the Pennine Way but it takes place in winter, with only eight hours of light a day and frequent whiteouts.

That race took Kelly just under 87 hours 54 minutes. “The Spine Race was one of those rare experiences where I couldn’t have possibly imagined beforehand exactly what it would be like,” he said stoically.

We’re half-expecting Kelly to jump out of a telephone booth in a Superman costume next. He’s a father to four children, holds a Ph.D., and works as Chief Technology Officer for Envelop Risk. How he finds time to train for ultra-distance events is anyone’s guess. To “do [my] day job with a clear mind, I run,” he explains on his website.

Perhaps that’s where mere mortals like myself have been going wrong in our own personal quests to become world record holders? Although I suspect Kelly’s analytical mind also functions as a superior, custom-built Garmin, providing an extra edge.

Damien Hall and John Kelly’s humor and support for one another adds an enthralling element to their challenges. Photo: @Ultra_Damo

 

When Kelly finished, Hall tweeted, “That was effing impressive. Relentless. Humbling. Inspiring. You git.”

Now we’ll eagerly wait out the next few days to see if Hall takes up the gauntlet afresh. In the meantime, he’ll need to update his website, removing “FKT The Pennine Way” — for now, anyway.

Alex Myall is a writer for Explorers Web. She has been writing about exploration and historical expeditions for four years. Previously she wrote about the human body in relation to exercise for publications and websites based in New Zealand. She also wrote modules for the Zealand Certificate of Exercise, Level 4. Based on Wellington’s South Coast, New Zealand, Myall is a full-time mother of two young girls, an enthusiastic trail runner, and a fanatical traveler. She also owns and operates a small travel agency.

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Dave
Dave
1 year ago

A fantastic performance by Kelly, whose record will prove very difficult to beat in the future.

I feel like it is slightly disrespectful to refer to Hall as a relative newcomer who had come out of nowhere. We’re talking about a man who wrote a guidebook on the Pennine Way, had raced the Spine and held both the winter and summer Paddy Buckley Round records. Far from a newcomer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave
Daniel
Daniel
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

I was slightly confused by that label too. There can’t be too many trail runners who have more experience than he does on the Pennine Way. He literally wrote the book on it.

Daniel
Daniel
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel

Also, John Kelly’s incredible performance at The Spine race was quick. But I’m pretty sure he took slightly longer than 8 hours 54 minutes 😂 (that would work out at 268 sub-2 minute miles!!!)

Mrs Sharon Dyson
Mrs Sharon Dyson
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel

And he has 4 children, not 3

Jerry Kobalenko
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel

Corrected, thank you.

Daniel
Daniel
1 year ago

This is the stuff we want to hear – really pushing the boundaries. Not sure why Everest gets any coverage on these websites any more – nobody cares anymore.

kelly
kelly
1 year ago

Mind blowing.

IBGPIN
IBGPIN
1 year ago

Incredible performance by both Men, but Kelly certainly upped the Ante this time. Impressive!