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John Kelly runs 300K, cycles 600K to complete Grand Round challenge

With his latest run under his belt, the American ultrarunner has completed a month-long challenge he dubbed the "Hartley Slam"

Barkley Marathons Photo by: Canadian Running Magazine

Just a month after running the fastest known time (FKT) for the 431K Pennine Way in the U.K. (which has since been beaten by British fell runner Damian Hall), American ultrarunner John Kelly completed the Grand Round, a challenge that involved 300K of running and 600K of cycling. Kelly combined these two routes to create a challenge that he titled the Hartley Slam (in honour of British fell running legend Mike Hartley). With no races to run this year, this became Kelly’s summer project, and after a little over a month since kicking it off, he can officially check the Hartley Slam off his bucket list. 

A win on the Pennine Way 

Before Kelly ran his FKT on the Pennine Way, the record was two days, 17 hours and 20 minutes, which Hartley himself ran back in 1989. The route stretches more than 400K, starting in Edale, a village near Manchester, and travelling north to Kirk Yetholm, a town in Scotland. Kelly managed to eke out a new FKT for the route, finishing just 40 minutes quicker than Hartley did 31 years ago and posting a final time of two days, 16 hours and 40 minutes.

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Kelly only had about a week to enjoy his record, because nine days after he finished his run, his friend and fellow ultrarunner Hall set a new FKT for the Pennine Way, finishing the route in two days, 13 hours and 34 minutes. 

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There are a lot of pictures I could post, and some of those will come. Beautiful landscapes, epic climbs, iconic locations, and amazing people. But this one sums up everything for me. Not just because it's the final peak, but because I can look at it in different contexts and see nearly everything I felt in that moment and really throughout the whole adventure. Happiness. Anguish. Determination. Despair. Triumph. Disappointment. Gratitude. And a big healthy dose of 'alright get me the eff out of this torrential wind and rain already.' This time there will be plenty of time to sort through those thoughts (unless @ultra_damo wants to give it a go and add farcical schadenfreude to the list above). So it might be a bit until my full report on my blog, but this week I'll post a mini report here for each section of the Grand Round. Thank you so much to everyone who supported me on this adventure, sent encouragement my way, or contributed to the fundraiser. As much as this was my own dream and project, it was the furthest from "solo" as anything I've ever done in running and I wouldn't have even made it out of Wales without that support. Photo: @wayoutsideuk
. . . #grandround #paddybuckleyround #bobgrahamround #charlieramsayround #fellrunning #hillrunning #mountainrunning #wales #england #scotland #ultrarunning #ultrabiking #adventureiseverywhere #exploreyourunknown #createyourpassion #foryourmountain #selfpropelled #howihammer #yoursecondskin #tweet

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Completing the Grand Round

Just as he created the Hartley Slam, Kelly also came up with the idea for the Grand Round. The route features three of the biggest fell running challenges in the U.K. As if running these three loops one after the other wasn’t hard enough, Kelly decided that he would cycle to the different points as well. He started with the 98K Paddy Buckley Round, a route in Wales that features 8,500m of elevation gain. From there, he biked about 290K to the 106K Bob Graham Round in England’s Lake District, a route with about 8,200m of climbing. 

RELATED: Damian Hall vs. John Kelly: the running rivalry we didn’t know we needed

Next, he biked around 320K to the Ramsay Round in Scotland. This final part of the Grand Round is 96K long and it features another 8,500m of elevation gain. In total, this works out to 300K of running, 25,000m of climbing and more than 600K of cycling, all of which Kelly completed in just five days.

Kelly posted on Instagram after the Grand Round to quickly write about all of the emotions he experienced throughout the challenge. He said he will write more on the runs in the coming weeks, joking that he will have plenty of time to go over the challenge, just as long as Hall doesn’t go run the Grand Round and beat Kelly’s record a week from now like he did with the Pennine Way.  

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