John Adelbert Kelley, an Olympian who finished the Boston Marathon 58 times and won it twice, died on Oct. 6. Cause of death was not released. He was 97.
The Medford, Mass., native originally wanted to be a baseball player. But once he saw his first marathon, he decided to become a long distance runner instead. Kelley ran track in high school and later sprinted to and from the Boston Edison plant where he worked until 1970.
Kelley made the U.S. Olympic Marathon team and placed 18th at the 1936 Berlin Games. He was drafted into the Army during World War II, but temporarily left his post at Fort McClellan in Alabama to race in the 1943 Boston Marathon. That year, he completed the 26.2-mile event in two hours and 30 minutes, his fastest time.
The ”King of the Marathoners” also competed in the 1948 Olympic Games in London and finished in 21st place. His efforts were honored in 1996 when he carried the Olympic torch from New Hampshire to Massachusetts.
Kelley won the Boston Marathon in 1935 and 1945; he finished in second place seven times. A statue of a young Kelley clasping hands with his octogenarian self was dedicated in 1993, a year after he retired from competition. The bronze monument stands along the race’s course at the base of the third hill in Newton, Mass.
Named “Runner of the Century” by Runner’s World magazine, Kelley was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame and the Road Runners of America Hall of Fame. A moment of silence will be held in his honor at the Boston Athletic Association’s half-marathon on Sunday.