John J. Kelley, 1957 Boston Marathon Winner, 1930-2011

22 AUG 2011
Only B.A.A. Running Club Member to win the Boston Marathon.

Reflections from the B.A.A. on the passing of John J. Kelley...

The essence of the Boston Marathon has long been comprised of competitive excellence and a rich tradition.  John Kelley has personified both.  His victory in the Boston Marathon wearing the unicorn of the BAA has been an inspiration to all of us at the BAA, as well as to generations of Boston and American runners.  His place in the history of the race and of the BAA is one of honor.  He ran and won at a time when there was no money to be won; a time when victory was sufficient unto itself.  His legacy is that of striving for excellence for its own sake, and for the quiet satisfaction that it brings to those with a deep sense of personal values.  I hope we will all continue to learn from that.  It remains John's gift to us all.

- Thomas S. Grilk, B.A.A. Executive Director


It is always sobering when we lose a part of our history.  John's passing is particularly sad as he was a modest yet very important part of our rich history and an icon of American sport, as well as a respected and personal friend.

- Guy Morse, B.A.A. Senior Director of External Affairs


How fortunate we are to have know John.  Although his 1957 Boston Marathon win may now be a dim memory in many people's minds, he epitomized who many of us believe was our own American Adonis.  He never spoke without smile; never wrote without a lasting message and, interestingly, his communiques with the Boston Athletic Association are retained in a special file.  As John may have noted in a famous Pericles quote,"what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."  He did just that.

- Gloria Ratti, B.A.A. Board of Governors Vice President


Boston Globe Obituary

Runner's World Obituary

B.A.A. Moment 2

1935 John A. Kelley

Born in West Medford, Massachusetts as one of ten children, Kelley ran track and cross-country at Arlington High School in Massachusetts. He did not finish his first Boston Marathon in 1928, but eventually competed in a record 61 Boston Marathons. A legend of the marathon, Kelley won the 1935 and 1945 runnings of the Boston Marathon. He finished in second place at Boston a record seven times. Between 1934 to 1950, he finished in the top five 15 times at Boston, consistently running in the 2:30s. He ran his last full marathon at Boston in 1992 at the age of 84, his 61st start and 58th finish there.