Ultra runner John Kelly gets FKT on Pennine Way in first part of his Hartley Slam

Ultra Runner John Kelly is halfway through his double-FKT and so far so good as the British runner, and the last person to finish the Barkley Marathons has just beaten the record on the Pennine Way. 

Kelly finished the 268-mile route in two days, 16 hours and 46 minutes besting a time set by Mike Hartley back in 1989.

The route, says Kelly, is “up the middle of England from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, just across the Scottish border.”


A post shared by John Kelly (@randomforestrunner) on Jul 12, 2020 at 2:04pm PDT


The Pennine Way is part of what he dubs the Hartley Slam, which is an initiative to raise money for The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. Next up is his second attempt at something called the Grand Round, which will see Kelly tackle three “rounds” in the UK — Paddy Buckley, Bob Graham, and Charlie Ramsay. According to a post on Kelly’s blog Random Forest Runner, it involves running 185 miles with 84,000 feet of elevation, 113 summits, and 400 miles of cycling thrown in for good measure. 

Kelly failed on his first attempt at the Grand Round but had always planned to give it another go.

“I knew as soon as I failed that I would try it again, and I still feel like that outcome is what makes it the perfect challenge: if I had been able to execute it perfectly the first time and complete it, then I may have wondered whether it was enough of a challenge,” he wrote. “Instead, I found that it was achievable but just out of reach with my initial approach. I learned and I’ve improved my plan, trying to optimize the many variables in play.”

Earlier this year, Kelly returned to his familiar Tennessee stomping grounds and decided to run his private version of the Barkley Marathons since the event cancellation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 


A post shared by John Kelly (@randomforestrunner) on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:16am PDT


He says he's been scheming for a way to do this big challenge since then and put his fitness level he achieved to tackle the Barkley to a real test. And when he and his family landed back in the UK in May, the wheels started turning. 

"After distracting myself with months of smaller goals, confirmation finally came late in June," he writes. "We would be allowed to be away from home overnight starting on the 4th of July and I would be able to cross the border into Scotland. Time to put The Hartley Slam plan in motion, cut my hair, and get to it!"

Now, with the Pennine Way out of the, ahem, way. It is on to the Grand Round. Like Pennine Way, the Grand Round also echoes the work put in by “running legend” Hartley. Hence the name Hartley Slam. 

“He was also the first (and I believe only) person to do all three of the big rounds consecutively – last year I just added in the idea to cycle instead of drive between them,” Kelly writes. “It’s not that I’ve tried to copy Mike, or that I’m trying to one-up things he’s done. It’s just that for pretty much everything I’ve thought of here in the UK and set my sights on doing, I’ve started doing research and then found out, wait, Mike Hartley pretty much already did this!” 

This is certainly the summer of FKT attempts in the ultrarunning world given all the race cancellations. It seems every week there is another attempt, which is exciting and allows for fans of the sport to keep up on all the latest. 


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