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 Johnny Kelley (1907-2004)
Johnny Kelley's First Victory

Friday, April 19, 1935

1. Johnny A. Kelley, Arlington, MA 2:32:07
2.Pat Dengis, Stonewall Democratic Club 2:34:11
3. Dick Wilding, Ontario, Canada 2:39:50
4. G.A. Norman, United Shoe Machinery Athletic Association, MA 2:40:47
5. T. Kanppinen, Finnish-American Athletic Club, New York 2:44:33

Johnny Kelley ran the 1935 Boston Marathon with one goal in mind: evening the score with Dave Komonen, the Finn who had won the previous year. Komonen was the favorite again in 1935, with the Boston Post predicting that he would finish first, Kelley second, and Leslie Pawson, winner of the 1933 race, third. But the driven Kelley told Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason, "I have one man to beat. That man is Komonen, and Jerry, I'm going to beat him and win this time."

Komonen, who had been caught in a snowstorm just before the race, ran tired, and dropped out near Wellesley, and Pawson had suffered a stress fracture prior to the race and wasn't fit to run.

Kelley finished the 1935 race before the tape even arrived at the finish line.

Excerpts from Boston Globe, April 20, 1935

Brief Nausea Costs Johnny Record, Stops But Revives to Outrace Dengis

Running his 1934 conquerer, Dave Komonen, into the smooth macadam at the halfway mark in Wellesley, standing up nicely to a challenge offered by Pat Dengis in the belt-buckle stages, then simply outracing that stern-visaged opponent over the courage-testing Newton Hills, little Johnny Kelley of Arlington, 28-year-old florist's assistant, yesterday fashioned a tremendously popular victory in the 39th Boston A.A. Marathon from Hopkinton to Boston.

Blessing himself as he sped on spindly legs through a howling mob at Exeter st., the game Irishman completed the 26 miles, 385 yards of one of the stiffest courses in the world in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 7 2-5 seconds, the second fastest time ever recorded for the present route.

But Kelley, who finally left the remnants of a field of 190 runners strewn all over the course and unmercifully lashed all but the dogged Dengis, who finished 400 yards behind, didn't strike a tapeless finish line in first position until after he'd given the veteran Marathon fans at Kenmore sq. the heart throb of a lifetime.

There, obviously safe in the 400-yard lead he had constructed over Dengis, Kelley stopped smack in the center of Beacon st. as the wild applause which greeted his choppy, ground-devouring stride died to a hush and rose in volume to a disappointed ``Ooooooooh.''

``Kelley is done up.''

But no: Johnny, doubled over in distress, was merely endevouring to relieve his stomach of the glucose which he had been taking to excess in tablet form, for stimulation. Meanwhile, on came the blue-shirted Dengis, eating up the yards which separated him from the nauseated leader.

Up straightened the little man from Arlington and broke into a run. Hardly had he taken 10 strides before he had halted again as the hundreds lining the drop from Beacon st. into Kenmore sq. pleaded with him, begged him to go on. This time Johnny unceremoniously rid himself of that which bothered him.

By this time the onrushing Dengis was within 250 yards of the jet-thatched leader. But Kelley, much relieved, swung back into his flowing stride to increase over the final miles his advantage.

Undoubtedly the delay cost Kelley a record run because, in taking the one means by which to prevent stomach cramps with victory in sight he whittled from his time, conservatively, one and one-half minutes. And at the end he fell shy of Leslie Pawson's record of 2:31:01 3-5 by only 1m, 5 3-5s.

The Baltimore powerhouse, Dengis, crashed through the finish in 2:34: 11 1-5. Fresh as the proverbial daisy, he encircled his fair bride of 12 months with his manly arms and planted upon her beaming face, a series of loud and luscious kisses.

How soundly these two men, Kelley and Dengis, trounced the field may be gathered from the third place taken by Dick Wilding of Ontario, the first of the fistful of Canadians to finish. He was more than five minutes in the rear of the swarthy Baltimore racer.

The race:

Kelley covered a half mile as the leader [in Wellesley] before Komonen amazed all by stopping to walk, dead at the college drive, a breath out of Wellesley sq. In a jiffy Dengis and McMahon, still engaged in their pleasantries, surged by him. Shortly after that, the Finn conceded the race.

Almost simultaneous with Komonen's unexpected cave-in, Dengis shook himself loose from McMahon and closed in on Malm and Kelley. In fact, he closed in too fast, because 200 yards later, just outside Wellesley sq., he split Kelley and Malm with a wild burst of speed to take over the lead.

This was fatal to Dengis' chances, as he later admitted, for in sprinting he brought himself one of those knifing cramps under the heart which he had to fight off right to the finish. The arrival of this new foe took the starch out of Malm, and Kelley pulled away to chase the plunging reckless Baltimore gent.

On the flowing, level stretch to Wellesley Hills, he caught him and here a two-man race was given birth. Side by side they ran until the deep drop from Wellesley Farms to Newton Lower Falls. On that long slope into Newton, Kelley gradually constructed a lead which was as much as 25 yards at the bottom of the hill.

From there on, with the inviting finish in Boston 10 miles away, Kelley turned on the heat determined to blast Dengis from the race. It was a slow process, because Pat was full of fight. Up and down the wicked grades on Commonwealth av. Johnny gave him the works. Up the mountain side to Brae Burn, Johnny didn't gain an inch, but over the flat to Newton City Hall and up the next hillock beginning at Bulloughs Pond in Newtonville, he gained results - a 100-yard lead.

By the time Johnny had finished paddling the trousers off those grades and was gliding from Boston College down to Lake st., he was well established 300 yards in front, looking fit as a fiddle and prancing along as he sniffed a clean-cut triumph.

Uneventful except for the related incident at Kenmore sq. were the five miles from Lake st. to the finish. It was Johnny's day. He made the most of it. He will never boast of it. He isn't built that way!