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John Kelly beats FKT for 273-mile Long Trail by over seven hours

Olly Green
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John Kelly has beaten the fastest known time (FKT) for the Long Trail in the USA by over seven hours.

The two-time Barkley Marathons finisher completed the 273-mile trail in Vermont in four days, four hours and 25 minutes.

Kelly was joined by Ben Feinson, whose time he eclipsed by seven hours and 19 minutes, on the opening sections of the route.

The Long Trail spans the length of the state of Vermont, featuring around 66,000ft of elevation gain and loss through the Green Mountains from the Canadian Border to Massachusetts.

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Supported effort

Ahead of his attempt, Kelly explained his mindset when it comes to supported and unsupported FKTs, with his Long Trail bid being the former.

“When I first started doing FKTs, I was much more interested in unsupported & self-supported efforts,” he wrote on social media.

“I didn’t like relying on other people, didn’t want to deal with the scheduling & logistics of supported attempts, and doing it myself just felt more ‘pure’.

A section of the Long Trail in the US state of Vermont
A section of the Long Trail in the US state of Vermont [Photo credit: Famartin / Wiki Commons]

“Then I spent a few years in the UK, where there’s an incredibly rich culture & history of supported efforts going back to long before the term FKT even existed.

“It does also help that nearly everyone in the country lives within a few hours of the Lake District.

“Most of my biggest achievements there wouldn’t have been possible without becoming a part of that community, and I came to truly appreciate & enjoy the team effort in seeing what’s possible.

“It also really provided extra motivation, knowing there were people out there who would be waiting around on me if I slowed down.

“I still very much see the appeal of unsupported efforts, and have a profound amount of respect for taking on these challenges solo. I’m definitely not done with those.”

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Serial FKT beater

Kelly is no stranger to FKTs in the USA, having broken the unsupported record for the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in 2018.

The same year, he bettered the supported record for the AT 4 State Challenge, a section of the Appalachian Trail from the Pennsylvania border to Virginia.

Prior to setting off, Kelly likened the Long Trail to the Pennine Way in the UK, which the 2020 Montane Spine Race winner is extremely familiar with.

John Kelly Damian Hall Barkley Marathons 2023 loop two photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
John Kelly and Damian Hall at the 2023 Barkley Marathons [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

During a period living in the UK, American Kelly swapped FKTs for the Pennine Way with friend Damian Hall and furthered his reputation as one of the most resilient runners on the planet.

He has taken on the Barkley Marathons, one of the world’s most demanding and unique races, six times, winning in 2017 and finishing second earlier this year.

In addition to his efforts in the USA and on the Pennine Way, Kelly also broke the record for completing all 214 Wainwrights in the English Lake District last year.

In 2020, he became the first person to complete The Grand Round, the UK’s big three fell running Rounds, biking between them.

Olly Green
Written by
Olly Green
Olly is the content lead for RUN247, is a regular contributor to TRI247 and keeps an eye out for content that appeals to both audiences including interviews with pro Heather Jackson.

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