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Jasmin Paris: How A Mother And Veterinarian Became An Ultrarunning Legend

Jasmin Paris details her before and after Barkley Marathons in an exclusive interview.

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Jasmin Paris, a 40-year-old mother of two from Great Britain, made history after becoming the first woman ever to complete all five loops of the Barkley Marathons within the stringent 60-hour time limit.

Paris completed the grueling race in 59:58:21, joining the exclusive club of Barkley Marathon finishers with just over a minute and a half to spare.

Following her triumph at Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, Paris was named as the starter for the elite women’s race at the 2024 TCS London Marathon. 

Jasmin Paris: How A Mother And Veterinarian Became An Ultrarunning Legend 1
Photo Credit: Howie Stern

Paris, said to the London Marathon prior to the race, “It’s a great honour to have been asked to start the women’s race at the TCS London Marathon. I’m excited to see some of the best marathon runners in the world take on the London Marathon this weekend – maybe we will even see a world record!”

“I’ve watched the London Marathon for many years and have been inspired by the thousands of people who take part every year, all of whom have their own stories of triumph playing out on the day.”

“It’s been a fantastic couple of months for me personally, and I’m looking forward to celebrating by cheering everyone on this weekend.”

Prior to her triumph at Frozen Head State Park, Paris wasn’t a household name in the ultrarunning world, but her world has now changed. 

Paris’s Barkleys triumph has become known around the world for breaking the boundaries of what is possible for women in ultrarunning, all while balancing motherhood and a full-time career.

We spoke with Paris following the 2024 Barkley Marathons to get a deeper perspective on who the first women to complete the race really is.

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Photo Credit: David Miller

How Do You Train For The World’s Hardest Race?

The Barkley Marathons is such a secretive race that unless you’ve done it (and even if you have) it’s hard to know what to expect and how to best train for it.

For Paris, preparing for the climbs was a big part of her training since she find these much more taxing than the descents.

Ascents. Many of the descents are really steep, which keeps you moving even when you’re exhausted,” she said when asked which was more challenging.

A combination of long sessions of hill reps and consistent strength training are what she found worked best for her.

“My training was largely focused on preparing for the climb at Barkley, which is huge. In the last couple of months, I did a lot of hill reps, the longest session of which was almost 9 hours,” Paris told us in an interview.

“I’ve been doing a morning online strength class too, three times a week. In recent months I’ve been more consistent with that, and with using additional weights. That seems to have made a big difference in terms of core and leg strength, my chronically injured left knee is better now than it has been for years.”

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Photo Credit: Jacob Zocherman

But fitness isn’t the only thing you need to think about when preparing for the Barkley Marathons. With a rule against the use of GPS watches and no course map, you need to know your way around old-school navigation.

Paris said her and her family made this part of training fun and would have them set up “mini-Barkley” races to help her simulate the technical aspects of Barkley.

“In terms of the navigation, my background is in fellrunning, and I’ve always preferred longer races, with a navigational aspect. To focus those skills specifically for Barkley, my family and friends set up several ‘mini-Barkley’ courses over the last few years, complete with magazines to tear pages from. We’ve had a lot of fun, and it’s been great training too.”

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Photo Credit: Jacob Zocherman

A Balancing Act

What adds to the awe of Paris’s feat at the Barkley Marathons is that she’s just like any other person. 

As a mother and someone with a full-time career, she doesn’t have the luxury of sleeping in everyday, putting her feet up after a hard session, or focusing solely on training and performance.

“I do almost all my training in the early morning, it’s the only timeslot I can guarantee to have free. I typically get up at 5am, have a slice of toast and a cup of tea, then train from 5.30-7.15ish, do a strength class 7.15-7.45, then take my son to nursery on the way to work. If I’m on a research week rather than clinics, I commute into the lab from nursery on my bike.” 

“At weekends I still do my training early, in order to have most of the day free for the family. On Saturdays for example, I take the children swimming at 10.30am, so I get my long run finished before that, and Konrad meets me at the pool with the children. If I have time, I enjoy 20 minutes in the sauna to warm up before they arrive.” 

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Photo Credit: Keith Dunn

Most women would say to perform at such a high level while balancing family life and a demanding career would be near impossible. However, Paris doesn’t believe that should hold you back.

“I’d say that if you want to have a go, don’t hold back. The only person who can define what you are capable of is you, so don’t be swayed by the predictions of others on that account.”

She knowns it’s not easy, though, and being prepared to fail is all part of the challenge and motivation.

“You need to be prepared to fail, and for that to be an incentive to train harder and to try again.”

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Photo Credit: Jacob Zocherman

The Play-By-Play Of The Barkley Marathons

Paris gave us some inside perspective on what it was like to compete and complete the most challenging ultrarunning event in the world.

From the get-go, Paris had her sights set on finishing and had set mid-race goals to keep her in check.

“I definitely went to Barkley this year with the intention to finish, and the self-belief to make it possible. I knew I needed to be faster in the first 3 loops for that to happen, and I’d set myself a target of around 32 hours to give myself a chance. As it was, I stuck pretty well to the plan.”

However, it certainly wasn’t without its challenges, with Paris’s main one being food intake. Looking back, she said, the main thing she would have changed was the amount she had eaten. However, in such an enduring event, it can be hard to avoid tummy troubles.

“I think the main thing would be eating. I really struggled to eat in the later stages, possibly because I went a little faster than I was comfortable with on the early loops. I’m not sure where I found the energy for the last loop, given how little I ate at the 4-5 inter-loop period and on loop 5, but I think the adrenaline just carried me along.”

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Photo Credit: David Miller

So what did the Barkley Marathons finisher eat during the entire event?

“At camp I was eating pasta, porridge or rice pudding, plus a banana (those always work for me on long races), and drinking coke, tea and coffee. On the course I was drinking stream water and eating a mixture of the following: frittata (made with potato, peas and cheese), pizza, sandwiches (cheese and pickle, jam, banana and peanut butter), trail mix, Snickers bars, homemade flapjack, sweets, a few gels.”

The camaraderie at the 2024 Barkley Marathons is unlike anything you’d see at a regular ultra. And this year, it was Jared Campbell who risked his own Barkley Marathons in order to help Paris write history. 

The YouTube video made headlines, but how much did that moment really help Paris?

“I’m so grateful to him for that,” she said. 

“The clockwise direction is easier and faster, relative to the alternative. That final loop was a race for me from start to finish. I did lose 20 minutes or so in errors, so I guess there’s always the possibility that I wouldn’t have made those going the other way, but I think it’s much more likely I’d have lost the same time or more in errors, and wouldn’t have been sprinting to the gate with 99 seconds to spare at the end.”

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Photo Credit: Howie Stern

What’s Next For Jasmin Paris?

The first question on all our minds was whether we will see Paris again next year at the Barkley Marathons to try and bring a second finish to her name.

However, as it stands, it doesn’t seem so.

“Probably not – although I’ll really miss the ‘Barkley Family’, I’m already nostalgic for those intense days together,” she said. “Besides, I am not sure I’d have the necessary drive to finish next year, having already achieved my dream to do so once.”

Paris is also keen to avoid flying whenever possible. Paris has a pledge with The Green Runners; a collective of runners making environmentally conscious changes to promote sustainability.

This year, she has plans to compete in three more ultra events including Scottish Islands Peaks Race, Jura Fell Race, and Tor des Geants.

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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