Already a successful runner in his native America, John Kelly rose to new prominence after moving to the UK with his family in 2019.
While based in Bristol where he worked as a data scientist for tech company Envelop Risk Analytics, Kelly set a series of Fastest Known Times (FKTs) for famous routes across the country.
With regular racing unable to take place due to lockdown, feats such as those undertaken by athletes such as John Kelly and Damian Hall captured the attention of the running public.
Kelly and Hall set new Pennine Way records in quick succession before the former regained the mark in May 2021.
Kelly has since returned to the USA, but remains a big player on the ultra-running scene with 34,000 Instagram followers.
Born in November 1984, John Kelly describes himself as having been a good, but not great runner in his school days. He then took a decade off the sport where his main exercise came from playing softball.
His love of running was rekindled after hiking the John Muir Trail with his wife Jessi and he gradually moved towards the greater challenge of ultras where he soon excelled.
John Kelly record and results
John Kelly’s breakthrough came when he became the 15th finisher of the Barkley Marathons in 2017. Having completed three loops in 2015 and four in 2016, he made it all the way a year later in a time of 59:30:53.
In 2023 he finished the Barkley Marathons for a second time, finishing behind Aurélien Sanchez in a time of 58:42:23.
Kelly claimed the 2017 Road Runners Club of America National Ultra Championship by winning the Lookout Mountain 50-mile race in 7:27:44.
He stepped up in distance to win the 2018 Wild Oak Trail Run, a 112.8-mile race, in 23:48.
He also showed his wider sporting ability by winning the 30-34 age group title at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in Denmark.
Kelly added victory in The Franklins, a 200-mile race in Texas, to his CV in 2019, taking the spoils in 60:53.
Soon after moving to the UK, John Kelly attempted what he termed the Grand Round. This involved completely the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales, the Bob Graham Round in England and the Ramsay Round in Scotland in succession and cycling between them.
Kelly had to abandon this in Scotland due to fatigue, but there was plenty more to come.
In January 2020, John Kelly won the Montane Spine Race, completing the 268-mile course along the Pennine Way in 87:53:57.
He then broke Mike Hartley’s Pennine Way record in July, recording 64:46 to beat the previous mark of 65:20, which dated back to 1989. Eight days later, Damian Hall lowered the mark to 61:35.
In August 2020, Kelly became the first man to complete the Grand Round. His feat involved 298km of running with 25,440m of ascent and 640km of cycling and took him 130 hours 43 minutes.
Kelly regained the Pennine Way record from Hall in May 2021, running the route from north to south in 58:04.
He completed his British running Odyssey for now at least by running a circuit of the 214 Lake District Wainrights in 5 days 12 hours 14 minutes, beating Sabrina Verjee’s previous best by more than 11 hours.
Kelly describes himself as the husband to an incredible wife and the proud father of four kids.
John Kelly is 39 having been born in November 1984
John runs in La Sportiva shoes