Jasmin Paris
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Jasmin Paris Makes History: First Woman to Conquer Barkley Marathons

The ultrarunning world was in awe as Jasmin Paris cemented her name in the history books. The 40-year-old British athlete became the first woman ever to complete the gruelling Barkley Marathon race in Tennessee on March 23, 2024.

Held at Frozen Head State Park, the Barkley Marathon is considered one of the toughest footraces in the world. Runners must complete five loops of approximately 20 miles each across extremely challenging terrain. With over 16,500 feet of total elevation gain and loss, navigating the remote and unmarked course tests both physical and mental limits.

A Nail-Biting Finish

Jasmin Paris showed incredible determination and perseverance to conquer the 100-mile challenge. Running through the night, she pushed her body to its limits. With just 99 seconds to spare, the exhausted vet from Edinburgh, Scotland crossed the finish line well within the crucial 60-hour cutoff time. Her final time of 59 hours, 58 minutes and 21 seconds cemented her place in the event’s history books.

Jasmin Paris’s Previous Attempts

While this was Paris’ first completion of the Barkley Marathons, she had exhibited her potential for success with two prior attempts. In 2022, she became just Jasmin Paris’s fifth woman ever to complete three loops, running an impressive 75 miles.

Undaunted, she returned last year and managed to get through four loops before falling short of the time limit. This year’s victory showed Paris’ growth as an ultrarunner willing to learn from past experiences.

Proven Ultra Talent

At age 40, Jasmin Paris has established herself as one of the world’s elite endurance athletes. In 2019, she shattered both the men’s and women’s course records at the 268-mile Montane Spine Race in England, completing it in an astonishing 83 hours and 12 minutes. 

As a nursing mother at the time, her spine race performance highlighted her immense strength and dedication. Throughout her career, Paris has consistently pushed boundaries and raised expectations for women in ultrarunning.

A Celebration Well Earned

When Jasmin Paris collapsed in exhaustion across the Barkley Marathon’s finish line, her accomplishment was met with jubilation. Supporters around the world erupted in celebration on social media as the live coverage of her nail-biting finish spread. 

Professional photographer David Miller, who witnessed the momentous occasion, called it “the greatest ultramarathon achievement of all time.” Paris’ first completion of the “Race That Eats Its Young” sets a new standard and opens doors for more women to take on one of the toughest challenges in the sports world. Her place in ultrarunning history is well secured.

The Challenge of Barkley

While Paris conquered it, the Barkley Marathon course never fails to exert its dominance over competitors. Jasmin Paris Held in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee since 1986, the infamous 100-mile challenge was designed with escapee James Earl Ray’s supposed route in mind. 

Each year, race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell modifies the unmarked 20-mile loops, ensuring navigational difficulties. With its “the torment continues” motto, Barkley aims to surpass all notions of an ultramarathon.

Only 15 people had previously completed the five loops within the 60-hour limit before Jasmin Paris. Adding to the challenge are strange traditions like finding book pages as proof of each loop. 

Runners face suspension bridges, rivers to cross, and technical rocky terrain in steep wooded hollows. Paris’ display of resilience in conquering such a monumental test sets a new benchmark. Her place in ultrarunning lore is undeniable.

New Heights for Women in the Sport

Though ultrarunning has grown more inclusive in recent decades, Barkley has remained the domain of men since its inception. Paris’ breakthrough victory holds immense significance for women in endurance sports. 

Her accomplishment serves as inspiration and should encourage even more talented females to push their limits at Barkley and beyond.

Jasmin Paris first woman to conquer this sacred ground, Paris vividly demonstrated that gender is no barrier. She proved mental perseverance and grit can overcome any physical challenge, no matter one’s background or identity. 

Her success in raising the bar for all ultrarunners will surely drive the continued evolution of women in the sport. There is no doubt Paris’ name will be revered among ultrarunning legends for generations to come.

Looking to Repeat Her Feat

When asked about her prospects for returning to Barkley again, the humble Jasmin Paris stated, “I’m just lucky to have experienced such a special place once.” While maintaining her usual low-key approach, it’s hard to imagine the competitive athlete not contemplating a return. 

With her debut victory now in the history books, Paris has undoubtedly developed further as a runner in the year since. A repeat performance conquering Barkley’s infamously daunting loops seems like an attainable next frontier for the trailblazing Brit. 

The ultrarunning world will be watching with great anticipation to see if Paris can solidify her legacy with an unprecedented title defence. Regardless of future results, she has already created history and inspired countless others with the enduring legend of her first Barkley Marathon finish.

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