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Barkley Marathons star John Kelly wins Old Dominion 100-miler: ‘Not too shabby for a slow multi-day guy’

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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Ultrarunning legend John Kelly was back in action at the weekend as he claimed a clear-cut victory in a “low key” 100-miler in Virginia.

The popular American was taking part in the Old Dominion Endurance Run, which was started in 1979, just two years after Western States, with entrants aiming to complete the race over the rugged terrain of northern Virginia in 24 hours or less.

Explaining why he’d added the race to his schedule, Kelly said: “It hasn’t changed much in that nearly half century – no sponsors, no tracking, a low key event with a group of great people and some challenging goals to chase.

“The history and atmosphere is part of what drew me to it, but I also want to limit my long distance travel to the races that are my absolute top priority. This was a beautiful drive to the top of the Shenandoah Valley, not far from where I used to live outside DC.”

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How did John Kelly’s race pan out?

Given his exploits, the most recent of which saw him complete the infamous Barkley Marathons – which has only had 20 finishers in its history – for a third time, Kelly was clearly a big favourite for the Old Dominion.

Though he did point out that this was just the second ultra he’d run in the last five years where he was aiming to finish in under 24 hours.

But all went to plan as he clocked an impressive 15:44.

Writing on X, Kelly said: “34 minutes behind Eric Clifton’s incredible 1992 CR. Fastest since then, 3rd all time over 46 years. Not too shabby for a slow multi-day guy pushing 40 who’s only good at hiking around the Barkley course.”

Not too shabby indeed – the winning times from the previous two years were both over 18 hours to put it into context.

And it was far from a walk in the park as Kelly added later: “Got pretty hot out there today, don’t know if I’ve ever felt this bad after an ultra.”

‘Probably the greatest sports moment I’ll ever see’

And if you happened to miss it last month, Kelly finally found time to pen his eagerly-awaited race report on this year’s epic Barkley Marathons.

It’s as fascinating and enlightening as ever, especially his words about Jasmin Paris’ historic achievement of becoming the first woman to finish the ‘Race That Eats Its Young’.

John Kelly day 2 Barkley Marathons 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
John Kelly – a remarkable record at the Barkley Marathons [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

Kelly wrote: We all sat with front row seats to probably the greatest sports moment I’ll ever see, as Jasmin joined us with just 99 seconds left.

“A woman finishing Barkley was a moment I knew was possible, but just because something is possible doesn’t mean it will happen.

“It took someone like Jasmin to step up and actually do it, to continue pushing against all odds and hanging on to whatever shred of ‘possible’ remained, and to open the door to whole new realms of possible in the minds of so many people.

“I’m fortunate to have been a part of it, and above all to have my young daughters there to witness it.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

THE SBRX Show

In episode 1 of our new SBRX Show we sit down with ultra runners and coaches Kim and Jayson Cavill to get their take on the Barkley Marathons and triathlon & trail running gear reviews, training tips and more

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