British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris is first woman to finish Barkley Marathons

British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to ever complete the infamous Barkley Marathons race in Tennessee.

The 40-year-old was one of only five runners to complete this year’s event, which consists of five punishing 20-mile loops around Frozen Head State Park. Paris’s finishing time was 59 hours, 58 minutes and 21 seconds – 99 seconds within the 60-hour limit.

Paris made headlines in 2019 by winning the Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way in northern England, breaking the course record for the mixed-gender event by 12 hours. She made more history in the United States on Friday by adding her name to a list of 20 competitors to complete the event since it was expanded to 100 miles in 1989.

Ihor Verys recorded the fastest time at this year’s event, with the Canada-based Ukrainian runner finishing in 58 hours, 44 minutes and 59 seconds. Americans John Kelly and Jared Campbell also completed the race for the third and fourth time respectively, with New Zealander Greig Hamilton also beating the cut-off time.

In a sporting gesture, so did Campbell Paris seemed to offer a choice to complete the final clockwise loop – which is generally considered slightly less difficult – while the remaining competitors camped out for the final stage.

Paris, who has two children and works as a vet and researcher in Edinburgh, took part in the Barkley Marathons for the first time in 2022, completing three runs. In last year’s race, she completed a fourth loop but fell outside the time limit.

Known as ‘the race that eats its young’, the Barkley Marathons is considered one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world. Although the forest route changes from year to year, it is estimated to include 16,500 meters (54,000 feet) of both vertical ascent and descent.

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The race was created by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell and first ran over 50 miles in 1986; Cantrell lights a ceremonial cigarette to mark the start of the annual run.

The unusual event also features a bugler, who plays to indicate when a runner has dropped out and has little online presence – all updates will be on social media from one man’s X account.