John Kelly on his way to victory in January's Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

John Kelly on his way to victory in January's Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Another endurance record has fallen with ultrarunner John Kelly posting a new fastest time for running the Pennine Way.

Kelly, who won this year’s Montane Spine Race along the route, arrived at Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders at 2.46am on Thursday.

His time for running the 268-mile length of Britain’s first national trail beat the previous record set by Mike Hartley by 34 minutes. Hartley’s record was set in 1989.

Kelly’s finishing time of 2 days 16hrs 46mins included the extra out-and-back ascent of The Cheviot.

As with recent runs by Sabrina Verjee and Kim Collison, completing challenges for the Wainwrights and Lake District 24-hours record respectively, Kelly’s run had to be completed with minimal support because of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The athlete appealed to members of the public not to turn out on the route to support him, particularly in crowded areas, though a small group was at Kirk Yetholm to greet him at the finish.

He also set up a JustGiving page for what he called the Hartley Slam to raise cash for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. Speaking of the charity, he said: “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 been working with kids since I was one myself in high school, and I’m now soon to be a father of four. 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.”

The American athlete was victorious in January’s Montane Spine Race, completing the course in 87hrs 53mins 57secs.

He said before his fastest known time challenge: “Fortunately, I expect much better conditions than I had in January, with more solid ground, less rain, snow, and wind, and approaching 20 hours of light per day as opposed to around eight.

“I also won’t have to carry the large amount of essential or mandatory gear that I did during the race, and I’ll be running for time instead of racing for place. I will be adding the out and back to the peak of The Cheviot, as Mike Hartley did, which is not a part of the Spine course, but without some of the out and backs to checkpoints on the Spine and the alternative routes included in the official Pennine Way mileage the route should actually be a bit shorter than 268 – by just how much, I’m not sure yet.”


Social media footage of Kelly during his run

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