Jasmin Paris en route to victory in the 2019 winter Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith Photography

Jasmin Paris en route to victory in the 2019 winter Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith Photography

British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to complete the gruelling Barkley Marathons.

The 40-year-old Edinburgh-based vet arrived at the finish one minute and 39 seconds before the 60-hour cut-off time.

The event, in the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee is reckoned by many runners to be among the most difficult endurance race in the world.

Only 20 runners have completed the full 100-mile distance within the allotted time since the race was first staged in 1995.

Paris held the record for the winter Spine Race along the full length of the Pennine Way until January this year. She was the first woman to claim victory in that event. Her women’s record for the Bob Graham Round stood for four years and she has taken the women’s title in several long-distance races, including The Fellsman and Three Peaks Race. Latterly she has excelled in skyrunning, racing on mountain terrain above 2,000m.

Runners in the Barkley Marathons undertake a series of 20-mile circuits, with the full race involving alternate clockwise and anticlockwise routes through forests, with a total ascent of 16,500 m (54,134ft).

The unconventional race was co-founded by Gary Cantrell, based on a prison escape and subsequent run in the forest to avoid recapture by Martin Luther King’s assassin James Earl Ray.

Runners are given a one-hour warning of the impending start by the blowing of a conch shell, and Cantrell sets off runners by lighting a cigarette. Competitors are given a map to study from which to make notes and must navigate the route using those notes, collecting book pages en route which correspond to their runner number.

The race ends when runners arrive at a yellow gate in the forest. Paris completed four circuits of the race in 2023, but arrived outside the allotted time and without the required number of book pages.

Other finishers this year were Ihor Verys, John Kelly. Jared Campbell and Greig Hamilton.

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