Wicklow Mountains serve up a storm for ultra legend Kelly

Ultra legend John Kelly’s experience of extreme weather running reached new heights this week on a visit to Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. 

2017 Barkley Marathon finisher Kelly, who returns to his native USA later this year, has spent the last three years based in the UK. During that time he has won the 2020 Spine Race, set the record for running the Pennine Way (twice) and recorded the first ever Grand Round – completing the Paddy Buckley, Bob Graham and Charlie Ramsay rounds in 130:43, including cycling between each one. 

Throughout these events, and subsequent running challenges, the UK’s climate has been an ever-present feature for Kelly. But the conditions he faced on his first ever run in Ireland took things to a new level. 

Eye of the storm

Speaking on his social media channels Kelly said: “The Wicklow Mountains had wind that made it difficult to stay upright at times, sideways hail that was painful even through a hood, standing water everywhere, and gorged streams where there shouldn’t have been streams at all.”

The wind was so strong that a video he posted finished with his phone being blown out of his hand. 

Things didn’t get a lot better on his second run on the Emerald Isle when a run in the Slieve Bloom Mountains saw him facing what he described as the boggiest stretch he has ever been on. “It’s almost like Ireland heard about the British adventures I’ve had and wanted to immediately one up them,” said Kelly. 

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An experienced runner with numerous trail and ultra-marathons in his legs from races ranging from 30 to 110 miles. Racing and training has been focused mainly, although not exclusively, on the North Yorkshire Moors and East Yorkshire Wolds. As a journalist and sports industry professional for 40 years, Chris continues to love many sports but admits that trail running has become more of an obsession than a hobby.