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Jasmin Paris: A Portrait of Perseverance

Jasmin Paris at Barkley Marathons
BY: The Running Channel
23 March 2024

It is a race renowned for its brutality and near-impossible challenge. With no finishers between 2018 and 2022, 2024’s Barkley Marathons bucked the trend with five finishers, including Jasmin Paris, the first female finisher in the race’s history (read more about 2024’s race here).

Paris crossed the finish line with a mere 99 seconds to spare from the 60-hour cutoff, in a race with a 98% failure rate. It was tantalisingly close – just one second a mile slower and she wouldn’t have finished in time – but in doing so, the British ultrarunner from Midlothian, Scotland, shattered records and made headlines.

The Barkley Marathons has captured the imagination of those who run, and even those who don’t, because of the race’s reputation as one of the most gruelling endurance feats on the planet. Despite the cult-like status, aided by a Netflix documentary, The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young, elite ultra-running scene and its competitors are far from household names.

Jasmin Paris rose to prominence in the ultrarunning world in January 2019. Just 14 months after giving birth to her first baby, she became the first woman to take the outright win at the 268-mile Spine Race from Edale, England, to Kirk Yetholm, Scotland, along the Pennine Way. Paris shattered the race record while beating all male and female rivals; the performance made even more impressive when it materialised she had stopped to express breast milk for her baby at aid stations.

Left: Jasmin Paris with her daughter Rowan after she won the 2019 Spine Race in England.

Credit: Yann Besrest-Butler/Montane Spine Race

The feat propelled the ultrarunner into the mainstream, for a little while. Jasmin Paris was a regular on our TV screens both here in the UK and internationally. She was pictured in every British newspaper. Paris was reportedly offered book deals and film projects – the latter two she politely declined. She was Tweeted congratulations by Barbara Streisand and Chelsea Clinton. 

None of this seemed to phase the social-media shy Jasmin Paris, who continued to do her thing.

At the time, Paris joined the growing list of female athletes beating men at ultra-endurance events. In August 2019, German cyclist Fiona Kolbinger was the first woman to win the Transcontinental Race through Europe (4,000km in 10 days) and US swimmer Sarah Thomas was the first person ever to swim the English Channel four times non-stop (215km in 54 hours) in September 2019.

Barkley Marathon images: Jacob Zocherman

Paris, 40, was born in Derbyshire, did not start running until she left university in 2008. After a twelve-month sabbatical in Minnesota, she returned to the UK, moved to Edinburgh in 2010 and began to take running more seriously. Paris told The Guardian in 2016: “I’d always walked a lot in the hills, so I guess it was a natural progression to start running in them. Once I had a busy job, I realised I could get out into the hills in less time if I ran. Also, a colleague suggested I run a fell race. I just had normal running shoes on and it was quite slippy, so I spent most of the time on my bum. But I loved it.”

Her performance in the Spine Race was the culmination of impressive results in smaller races. Her wins include Wasdale, the Three Peaks Race, Borrowdale, the Langdale Horseshoe, the Isle of Jura and the Ennerdale Horseshoe and she has won the Lakeland Classics Trophy series. Paris also won the Scottish Hill Running Championships in 2014 and 2015, and in 2015 and 2018 she won the British Fell Running Championships.

In 2016, Paris completed the Bob Graham Round in a time of 15:24, breaking the previous women’s record, held by Nicky Spinks, by more than two and a half hours. Later that year, she ran the Ramsay Round in a time of 16:13; not only a new women’s record, but the FKT (fastest known time) for the route. These achievements rightly make her one of the world’s best ultrarunners.

In her personal life, Paris is married to Konrad Rawlik, who is also a runner with a win in the Fellsman. They have two children. She is currently working as a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, where she combines clinical work with research focused on chronic liver diseases in humans and dogs.

Jasmin Paris is the first female finisher of the Barkley Marathons, but it’s not her first experience of the race. She first competed in the Barkley Marathons in 2022, where she finished three loops (a ‘fun run’). In the 2023 race, she became the first woman to ever begin a fourth loop, but she failed to finish it within the time limit.

She has said previously on the race: “Barkley Marathons is a truly unique challenge, and the idea of running it has been growing on me for the last few years.

“I feel a mixture of excitement and nerves. I know it’s going to be very hard, possibly impossible, but at the same time that’s what makes me want to run it.”

Well, Jasmin, you’ve proven it’s not impossible and everyone at TRC and the running community is in awe of you!

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