John Kelly Resets Men’s Supported Fastest Known Time on Vermont’s Long Trail

Insights from John Kelly on his latest fastest known time, the men’s supported FKT on Vermont’s Long Trail.

By on July 5, 2023 | Comments

John Kelly has set a new men’s supported fastest known time (FKT) on the roughly 270-mile Long Trail through Vermont, in a time of four days, four hours, and 25 minutes — finishing at 2:36 p.m. local time on Monday July 3, 2023.

The Long Trail stretches between the Canadian border just outside of Jay State Forest and Green Mountain National Forest at the Vermont-Massachusetts border, and is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The route is challenging — super rocky and muddy — taking in somewhere in the region of 70,000 feet of elevation gain.

The men’s supported FKT was previously held by Ben Feinson, who completed the route in four days, 11 hours, and 44 minutes in July of 2021.

John Kelly at a trail marker

John Kelly at the start of the Long Trail, just outside of Jay State Forest, as he begins his fastest known time attempt. Photo: Ben Feinson

For Kelly — who is a native of Tennessee, who is a two-time Barkley Marathons finisher, and who also holds the speed record for England’s Wainwrights Round — the Long Trail has been on his to-do list for some time. He told iRunFar:

“The Long Trail had been on my list for a while, and this ended up being the year it worked out. It’s a beautiful area, historical route, and has a history of FKTs to draw inspiration from. It also has an outstanding community. Ben Feinson, who previously held the men’s supported FKT, not only helped gather support and ran with me himself, he brought me homemade rice pudding!”

Kelly says he owes his success on the effort to his tireless crew, “I had an amazing team, and it was incredible how seamless and near flawless the support was for a group of near complete strangers.”

Kelly faced tough conditions on the route, with extreme heat in the earlier part giving way to heavy rain in the latter stages. He recounts:

“There were some incredible early views over Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump, and I was thrilled to make good time getting to the smoother southern section of the trail and the spot where it joins the Appalachian Trail for around the last 100 miles. Then the rain came back at the worst possible time — the next-to-last section planned for eight hours overnight. It was heavy, I was depleted, I couldn’t move fast enough to stay warm or awake, and the trail turned into a gushing stream. I ended up taking a nap in a privy at the Kid Gore Shelter. First-class accommodation, probably saved my run — and seriously, there are some really nice privies on that section of trail. In all the things I’ve done, this was in my top-three worst nights out. But we made it through it and finished strong.”

Kelly hopes that his new FKT will provide inspiration and a target worth aiming at for anyone else considering taking on the arduous task, and he finished by saying that, “sub-four days is possible!”

John Kelly with trail sign

John Kelly at the finish of the Long Trail, in Green Mountain National Forest, having completed the men’s supported fastest known time on the route. Photo: Melissa Friesen

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is Managing Editor at iRunFar. She’s been working in an editorial capacity for ten years and has been a trail runner for almost as long. Aside from iRunFar, she’s worked as an editor for various educational publishers and written race previews for Apex Running, UK, and RAW Ultra, Ireland. Based in Belfast, Ireland, Sarah is an avid mountain runner and ultrarunner and competes at distances from under 10k to over 100k. When not running, she enjoys reading, socializing, and hanging out with her dog, Angie, and cat, Judy.