Late last Saturday night, ultra-runner John Kelly settled unfinished business by breaking the record for a continuous round of the Wainwrights.
Kelly, the Bristol-based La Sportiva team member has finally broken the record at 27-years-old with a provisional time of 5 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes, and 42 seconds. That’s an impressive 11 hours faster than the previous record established by Sabrina Verjee in June last year.
Verjee herself took three attempts to break the record, finally shaving six hours from her predecessor’s time which had held the top spot for two years. With today’s exponential improvements in shoes and gear, it’s unsurprising that this record is being shattered in quicker succession. But make no mistake – this is not an easy feat by any means. Joss Naylor’s 1987 record of 7 days, 1 hour and 25 minutes stood firm for over 27 years.
“It takes a seriously dedicated athlete to make a dent in the Wainrights challenge”
The challenge is a multi-day run hitting a list of peaks chosen by Lake District writer Alfred Wainwright for his famous 7-book collection: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. It’s comprised of 214 Lakeland tops, 515km, and 36,000ft of ascent.
Kelly had attempted the record last year but was hindered by extreme temperatures and problems with his feet. Setting off from the Moot Hall in Keswick on Monday 2nd, the round went relatively smoothly and Kelly had decent weather throughout the week, managing to get ahead of foot problems before they became an issue. He also made small changes to the standard route in order to realise some marginal gains.
Over recent years, John Kelly has broken the record for running the 260-mile Pennine Way twice, completed the Grand Round (the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales, the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District, and the Ramsay Round in the Highlands) continuously, linking them by bike, and won the Montane Spine Race in 2020. Kelly is also one of the small number of finishers of the infamous Barkley Marathons in the USA.