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John Kelly comes to terms with Winter Spine Race KO: ‘I guess I can get a haircut now’

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Published on
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John Kelly has spoken of the moment that ended his Montane Winter Spine Race.

The American legend, who last year finished the Barkley Marathons for a second time, had been one of the big favourites to repeat his 2020 victory in the race billed as ‘Britain’s most brutal’.

In the build-up he’d underlined just how much more experienced he is now on the 268-mile Pennine Way route, for which he’s currently the holder of the FKT (fastest known time).

And he’d even revealed a few marginal gains – such as not having a haircut for a while in order to combat the freezing temperatures the runners would face!

What happened?

All had gone to plan early on as he stuck to his own schedule even though that left him around 20 minutes off the lead pack, which included his great friend Damian Hall, the defending men’s champion.

But Kelly’s race came to an end late on the first night when he retired at the Cowling checkpoint, with a subsequent Instagram post explaining what had happened.

He said: “With one little slip heading down into Lothersdale, about 65 miles in, my ankle went a direction ankles aren’t supposed to go, and my Spine Race was over.

“Conditions are great out there – it was an absolutely beautiful day and night. The leaders are pushing hard to take advantage of those conditions and I hope they can keep it up.

“It’s a long race, and I was trying not to get too eager early on, closely sticking to my sub 80 hour schedule.”

Staying on to help out

Kelly underlined the spirit of the famed Spine Race family as he added: “For now my plan is to travel up the route with the support team to help out where I can. And I guess I can get a haircut now.”

john kelly winter spine race 2024
Not to be this year at the Spine for John Kelly [Photo credit: Montane Winter Spine Race]

Kelly was the first of the big names to depart – he would be followed by three-time winner Pavel Paloncy a few hours later – and the race media team posted: “John is an astounding athlete with a great many super-human seeming achievements under his belt, but this is not to be his race.”

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.  

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