Skip to main content

Ultra runner John Kelly sets new Pennine Way record – again

John Kelly finishes Pennine Way record bid
Emotional finish for Pennine Way record setter John Kelly (Image credit: Steve Ashworth)

Endurance runner John Kelly has set a new Fastest Known Time (FKT)  for the 261-mile Pennine Way – for a second time.

The UK-based American athlete ran from Kirk Yetholm in Scotland to Edale in England in two days, 10 hours and 4 minutes.

Just 10 months ago, John broke what was then a 31-year-old record on the long-distance trail in two days, 16 hours and 46 minutes. HIs friend and running rival Damian Hall then snatched a quicker time only eight days later. 

Clearly this left unfinished business for John, who lives in Bristol with his wife and children, and on Saturday at 9am he set off once again on the Pennine Way to run north to south.

John set a fast early pace, immediately gaining time on his schedule. Conditions proved very mixed, however, with weather described as "constantly grim" delivering heavy showers and poor visibility. 

His strategy was to keep moving and he took only an hour's rest some 48 hours into the run. Sleep deprivation began to take its toll in the closing stages. 

The emotions of exhaustion, joy and determination were written on the face of the La Sportiva team member as he finally reached the finish point in Edale yesterday at 7.04pm.

John Kelly Pennine Way

John Kelly on Pennine Way record run (Image credit: Steve Ashworth)

John Kelly smashes Pennine Way FKT

John Kelly sets new  Pennine Way FKT (Image credit: Steve Ashworth)

John's determined bid on the Pennine Way

The Pennine Way is the oldest and most well-known of the UK’s National Trails. It is also one of the most challenging long-distance routes. 

Many strong runners had attempted to break Mike Hartley’s 1989 record, before John beat the time by 34 minutes. However, just eight days later, Damian Hall bettered Kelly’s time by more than three hours.

John is a successful ultra-runner, having previously established a men’s record time for the Spine Race, a winter ultramarathon along the Pennine Way, and he is also a winner of the legendary Barkley Marathons in the US. 

He wore La Sportiva trail running shoes throughout the challenge, relying on the latest Jackal model for the long distance challenge. 

Fiona Russell

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.