Home > Trail Running

John Kelly sets off on Pennine Way, looks to win back route FKT

The current record on the 420K route stands at 61 hours, 35 minutes, a time that Damian Hall ran in July 2020

John Kelly Photo by: John Kelly/Twitter

American ultrarunner John Kelly is in the middle of an FKT (fastest known time) attempt on the Pennine Way, a 420K route that runs through the middle of England and into Scotland. Kelly broke the route record in July 2020, but only eight days later, British ultrarunner Damian Hall lowered the FKT yet again, beating Kelly’s time by three hours. Kelly is now looking to win the FKT back, and to do so he will have to beat Hall’s time of 61 hours, 35 minutes. 

The Pennine Way 

The Pennine Way starts in Edale, a town just outside of Manchester, and runs north, passing over the border into Scotland and finishing in a small village called Kirk Yetholm. The journey is 420K, which would be difficult on flat terrain, but the route’s nearly 12,000m of elevation gain makes it even harder. Before Kelly broke the FKT last July, the record belonged to Mike Hartley, who completed the Pennine Way in 65 hours, 20 minutes all the way back in 1989. 

RELATED: Sabrina Verjee breaks women’s FKT on 420K Pennine Way

After 31 years, Kelly finally managed to beat Hartley’s time, but just barely, running 64 hours, 46 minutes. After such a long wait for the record to fall after Hartley’s run, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Kelly’s FKT stand for years. Hall had other plans, though, and less than a week after Kelly completed his run, he set out on his own FKT attempt, smashing Kelly’s and Hartley’s times. 

Winning it back 

Kelly is now on a mission to win back the FKT that Hall stole from him. To do so, he will have to average a bit quicker than 8:50 per-kilometre pace for the full two-day journey. That pace works out to just over a six-hour marathon, but instead of stopping after 42K, Kelly will end up running 10 marathons by the time he hits the end of the Pennine Way. Last year, Kelly started in Edale and ran north, but Hall took the opposite approach, running from Kirk Yetholm and moving south. When Kelly announced his plans on Instagram, he noted that he will follow Hall’s lead and run south this time.

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

According to Nicki Lygo, who is the leader of Kelly’s crew and providing regular updates on his progress, Kelly is continuing to run well, and although he’s more than halfway into the record attempt, he looks strong. Of course, the latter half of the run is likely to be the hardest, and while Kelly is getting closer to the finish line, he still has hundreds of kilometres to go before he gets there. 

To follow along and track Kelly’s progress, click here.