American ultrarunner John Kelly smashed the Pennine Way FKT (fastest known time) on Monday, completing the 420K route in 58 hours, four minutes. This is Kelly’s second time setting the FKT on the route, which runs from a Scottish village called Kirk Yetholm down to the English town of Edale. Last time he broke the Pennine Way record, British ultrarunner Damian Hall stole it after just eight days. Kelly’s most recent run beat Hall’s FKT by more than three hours.
In 2020, Kelly ran north from Edale and up into Scotland before finishing in Kirk Yetholm. His run was a success, but just barely, as he only beat the previous FKT (which had belonged to British fell running legend Mike Hartley since 1989) by 34 minutes, eventually crossing the finish line in 64 hours, 46 minutes. Less than a week later, Hall set off in the opposite direction, starting in Scotland and running south, and he proceeded to smash Kelly’s days-old record with a 61-hour, 35-minute run.
Kelly fared much better this time around on the Pennine Way, and instead of eking out an FKT like he did last year, he obliterated Hall’s record by three and a half hours. As one would expect, running 420K was not an easy task, and although Kelly smashed the previous FKT, it took a herculean effort.
Nicki Lygo was the leader of Kelly’s crew, and she posted regular updates on his progress throughout the run. As she noted on Twitter, Kelly had to endure rain and cold during his run, and while he experienced incredible discomfort on the route, he exhibited tremendous mental strength and carried on after every pitstop, refusing to end his run until reaching Edale. His perseverance paid off, and Kelly once again occupies the top on the Pennine Way rankings.
Teavenge, it appears, is best served sweet and ice cold (yuk). We knew @RndmForestRunnr had a better PW run in him, if his tum behaved. But that was still effing impressive. Relentless. Humbling. Inspiring. You git.#PWRecord #PWFKTea #SweetTeavenge
📸 @inov_8 / @davemacfarlane pic.twitter.com/rKMBnSkuOG
— Damian Hall (@Ultra_Damo) May 17, 2021
Since their runs on the Pennine Way last summer, Kelly and Hall have had a fun little rivalry, and that was put on display over the past few days. When Kelly announced his run on Instagram, he said it was time to get revenge on Hall and win his FKT back. While Kelly was running, Hall tweeted about the record attempt, rooting for his friend and competitor while also hoping his FKT wouldn’t be beaten.
It took 31 years for Hartley’s Pennine Way FKT to fall, and when Kelly broke it last year, it looked like that record might last several years itself. Then Hall beat it, and that, too, looked as though it could be the official FKT for a while. Now, though, Kelly has lowered the mark once again, and while it would be easy to say his FKT will be the one that lasts, his rivalry with Hall has proven that no record is safe, and it won’t be a surprise if Hall takes another stab at the Pennine Way soon.