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John Kelly set to run ‘Hartley Slam’ in U.K.

The most recent Barkley Marathons finisher will be running the 431K Pennine Way and 297K Grand Round challenge within a month of each other

John Kelly Photo by: John Kelly/Twitter.

Thanks to Fastest Known Time (FKT) records, trail and ultra runners have been able to keep busy and competitive during COVID-19 even though official races are all cancelled for the time being. American ultrarunner and 2017 Barkley Marathons finisher John Kelly (who now lives in the U.K.) has announced that he will combine a 431K route called the Pennine Way and 297K run dubbed the Grand Round (which Kelly created himself) and call it the Hartley Slam. He named the challenge after Mike Hartley, who owns the FKT of two days, 17 hours and 20 minutes for the Pennine Way, which he ran in 1989. Kelly will run the two routes less than a month apart, and he’ll raise money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, a U.K. charity that helps disadvantaged youth. 

The Pennine Way

Kelly ran the Pennine Way earlier in 2020 at an event called the Montane Spine Race in the U.K. The route starts in Edale, near Manchester, and goes north over the border into Scotland, finishing in a town called Kirk Yetholm. When Kelly ran the Spine Race, which he won, he covered the route in three days, 15 hours, and 53 minutes. This is almost a full day behind Hartley’s 1989 run, but in a blog post, Kelly notes that he will have a crew with him to carry his supplies this time around, whereas in the race, he had to carry everything himself. He adds that the weather will be much more favourable than the conditions he saw in January, which will be a big factor. Even so, cutting 22 hours off his time from the race will be a tall order, and he’ll have to be dialled in to break Hartley’s FKT. 

RELATED: John Kelly tackles his first big UK trail quest

Grand Round 

Kelly writes that he came up with the idea for the Grand Round when he and his family moved to the U.K. The route involves almost 300K of running, thousands of feet of elevation gain and more than 600K of biking between different sections of the challenge. He attempted the Grand Round in 2019, but was unable to complete it, so he’s heading back for a second try, and only weeks after the Pennine Way run. 


Earlier in the year, Kelly was set to run the Barkley Marathons, which were cancelled just days before the event was set to start. Kelly was already in Tennessee for the race, so he decided to run the course on his own. He hasn’t had many opportunities to race in 2020, but he’s clearly making the most of a bad situation and getting big runs in all the same. 

RELATED: Ultrarunner sets FKT on 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail

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