John Kelly is running the Barkley Marathons solo and we are loving it

British runner John Kelly is the last person to actually finish the legendary Barkley Marathons. He did so in 2017. It’s that kind of race. The Tennessee ultra event was cancelled last week due to COVID-19, so once again there will be no winner in 2020. But, to honour the race, and the athletes that make it so special, Kelly is running it anyway. And we kinda love it. 

Kelly made the announcement via Instagram while hunkered down on his family’s farm, which happens to be in rural Tennessee across the road from Frozen Head park where the race takes place. He attached the flags of all the countries that would have been participating in the Barkley this year to his backpack in a show of solidarity. 

“I plan on running my own 100% solo #BM100 substitute, by doing 5 Barkley Challenge Loops within 60 hours (an on-trail more "approachable" alternative to an actual Barkley loop),” he wrote. “In tribute I've attached a flag from every country that would have been represented to my pack.”


A post shared by John Kelly (@randomforestrunner) on Mar 21, 2020 at 5:58am PDT

In his second post, yesterday, Kelly had finished two loops in less than eight hours and wrote about his feeling regarding the race, what is happening in the world and the important of staying physically and mentally fit as long as we are causing no harm. Sound advice. 

“As long as we're causing no harm (again, no contact with anyone), I suppose it's best we do whatever we can to stay mentally and physically healthy, and in the process maybe offer some intangible benefit to others. At some point if there is something more direct we can do we'lll be ready (and if anyone knows of anything more tangible please do let me know).”


A post shared by John Kelly (@randomforestrunner) on Mar 22, 2020 at 4:22am PDT

On the morning of March 23, Kelly wrote about the challenge presented by Rat Jaw, the tough 1,000-ft. climb under some power lines in Barkley. And reflected on the real challenges we are facing today to put things in perspective. 

“Right now healthcare workers, emergency personnel, vaccine researchers, and many others are facing a challenge that makes Rat Jaw, and Barkley as a whole, look like child's play. If that's you, I hope you feel invincible (in the figurative sense... in the literal sense please do take every possible precaution). You will get through this. You'll get us through this,” he wrote. 


A post shared by John Kelly (@randomforestrunner) on Mar 23, 2020 at 5:07am PDT

Follow along as Kelly has one loop to go, and the forecast calls for rain. Natch. 



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