Two-time Barkley Marathon finisher John Kelly has smashed the Long Trail FKT through Vermont’s Green Mountains by more than seven hours, finishing the challenging 440-km course in four days, four hours, 25 minutes and 50 seconds.
The 38-year-old native of Morgan County, Tenn., set out on the trail June 28 near the Vermont-Quebec border and completed his run south to the state line with Massachusetts on Monday. ben feinson, who ran the previous FKT in July 2021, played a crucial role in the toppling of his own record as a member of Kelly’s support crew. Feinson accompanied Kelly during the first few sections of the Long Trail, which includes more than 20,000 meters of elevation gain.
In a social media post on the eve of his attempt, Kelly wrote that he was “excited to explore a beautiful area & spend time with some great people.”
With this latest feat, Kelly adds to an impressive summary of ultrarunning achievements. In 2018, Kelly ran the AT 4 State Challenge—a 67-km segment of the Appalachian Trail that touches into Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia—in 6:39:51, setting the FKT for a supported run. Later that year he ran the unsupported FKT for the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run, a 115-km section of the Appalachian Trail on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
In 2017, Kelly was the sole finisher of the Barkley Marathons, the infamously brutal 160-km ultramarathon held in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park each spring. This March, Kelly finished the Barkley a second time, completing the race between winner Aurelien Sanchez and third-place finisher karel sabbe.
In 2020 and again in 2021, Kelly ran the FKT on the Pennine Way, a 420-km route extending from the Scottish village of Kirk Yetholm down to the English town of Edale. Leading up to his successful record attempt in Vermont this past week, Kelly contrasted the Pennine Way course with that of the Long Trail. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the Pennine Way the past few years, which has comparable distance, is also known for mud, and is the UK’s oldest national trail similar to the Long Trail being America’s oldest long-distance trail (it provided inspiration for the Appalachian Trail, which it merges with towards the end),” wrote Kelly.
“The similarities end at the elevation profile, though, with the Long Trail having twice as much climbing & descent. In a bit of a contradiction, I’ll be hoping it’s not overly wet, muddy, or humid, while also hoping that wildfire smoke stays away.”