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John Kelly is running his own Barkley Marathons

Kelly is one of the Barkley Marathons' very few finishers, and he's halfway through a solo tribute run to Barkley 2020

John Kelly

Trail and ultrarunner John Kelly has created his own modified version of the Barkley Marathons. Three years ago, Kelly of Maryland became the 15th finisher of the demonically difficult Barkley Marathons, on his third try. In 2019, he dropped out after two loops. He was planning to return to the 2020 event, but due to cancellation, was unable.

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The event requires the fitness of endurance ultrarunning, the brain power of orienteering, and resilience of a never-ending scavenger hunt. Runners must complete five 20-mile loops while collecting particular pages from 14 books hidden throughout the course. This is all done in less than 60 hours. While Kelly isn’t doing the full Barkley, he’s attempting a “solo #BM100 substitute, by doing 5 Barkley Challenge Loops within 60 hours (an on-trail more ‘approachable’ alternative to an actual Barkley loop).” So Kelly will follow the format of the race, on a trail that’s easier to complete than the traditional Barkley route.

Kelly’s parents’ farm is across the road from Frozen Head State Park, making this run possible.

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He wrote on Instagram:  “I’m proud of where I come from, as I hope most are, but borders serve little purpose beyond that. We’re all in this together, and with as much as we all must do our part at times we should all also feel a little sense of mutual pride with the things we collectively make possible. I’ll have an amplified appreciation for those things while I’m out there (alongside the fact that, for now, I can still be out there at all). But in any case, enough rambling from me. I think I just heard a conch.” Keith Dunn, the unofficial Twitter account of the Barkley Marathons, is reporting Kelly’s results.

As of Sunday morning, Kelly had begun loop three of five.