John Kelly en route to setting a new Pennine Way record earlier this year. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

John Kelly en route to setting a new Pennine Way record earlier this year. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The season of attempts on long-distance records continues with a new bid to complete the Wainwright fells in a fastest time.

John Kelly began his run at 10am on Saturday, setting out from the Moot Hall in Keswick.

He aims to beat the time set by Sabrina Verjee last month, when she became the first athlete to summit all 214 Wainwrights in less than six days.

He has set himself an ambitious target of finishing shortly before 6pm on Thursday, which would better Verjee’s time by 16 hours.

In May, Kelly reclaimed his record for running the full length of the Pennine Way, completing the 268-mile national trail in 2 days 10hrs 4mins 53secs. He’s dubbed his latest attempt the Full English, adding the Wainwrights to his Pennine Way fastest time.

Unlike his May challenge, when he faced torrential rain while running through the Yorkshire Dales, South Pennines and Peak District, Kelly has begun his latest challenge on one of the hottest days of the year, with forecasts predicting continuing fine, warm weather and felltop temperatures of 17C through the day, falling only two or three degrees overnight.

At the time of writing, he was about half an hour of his planned schedule, heading for the central fells.

Sabrina Verjee completed the Wainwrights in, 5 days 23hrs 49mins 12secs.

Her time beat the record set by Paul Tierney in 2019 by more than six hours and was third time lucky for Verjee, 40, who had to abort a similar attempt in May when sub-zero temperatures and blizzards exacerbated her asthma, putting an end to her run. She had completed the Wainwrights once previously in but publicly stated she did not want her 6 days 17hrs 51mins to be considered for the records as she had needed substantial support from fellow runners after suffering a knee injury.

The challenge involves completing all the peaks described by Alfred Wainwright in his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

In May this year, runner Tom Hollins set a time of 6 days 21hrs 33mins 8secs to complete the Wainwrights round in brutal weather conditions, fourth-fastest overall, but considered at the time by many to be the third-fastest because of Verjee’s statement following her 2020 challenge.

Paul Tierney set a new fastest time for running the round in 2019, completing the route in 6 days 6hrs 5mins, beating Steve Birkinshaw’s previous record of 6 days 12hrs 58mins.

Before that, Joss Naylor held the fastest time, 7 days 1hr 25mins, beating Alan Heaton’s time of 9 days 16hrs 42mins. Mel Steventon completed a round of the Wainwrights in September last year in a time of 13 days 12hrs 16mins 21secs, while raising money for Women’s Aid and Community Action Nepal.

John Kelly, who is sponsored by outdoors brand La Sportiva, is raising funds for Action Medical Research. His progress can be followed on the Open Tracking website.

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