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Barkley Marathons: Can Jasmin Paris become first woman to finish ‘The Race That Eats Its Young’?

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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None other than race creator Lazarus Lake was among the first to suggest than Jasmin Paris could become the first female finisher of the Barkley Marathons.

And it’s now been confirmed she’s back at Frozen Head State Park for a third attempt in succession this week, having gone way closer than any female in recent years to making it through the five loops of the infamous race.

Last year she became only the second woman in the iconic race’s history to start a fourth loop, following in the footsteps of Sue Johnston in 2001, but was unable to get back in time start the fifth and final loop.

And in 2022 on her debut she was the first woman in nine years to complete a three-loop ‘Fun Run’.

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Did Laz foretell the future?

The British ultrarunning legend looked to be on a short video from the start, which was at 05:17 local time on Wednesday, but it was only when pictures came through from the Fire Tower on loop one that her presence was confirmed (see below).

“I’m really happy with how I did,” she said 12 months ago. “I do think that a woman can finish that race, whether that’s me or another woman.”

But rewind to a few years earlier and her incredible victory in Britain’s Montane Winter Spine Race when finished in 83 hours, 12 minutes, 23 seconds – while also expressing breastmilk for her infant daughter.

That time was a course record for both women and men – and stood until January of this year when Jack Scott surpassed it.

And none other than the man behind the Barkley, Laz Lake, told the Bad Boy Running Podcast back in 2019: “I’m excited about this woman who won the Spine. I was so excited I went back and looked through all the applications that had been sent in for the Barkley and there was another Jasmin but it wasn’t her.”

“It seems like Jasmin would have a lot of the different things you need. When a woman finishes it, it’s not going to be a woman who finishes to prove a woman can finish it. It will be to prove she can finish it. You need to be in it for yourself.”

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Unfinished business

In nearly 40 years just 17 runners have finished the Barkley, all of them men, so could 2024 be the year that Paris makes history?

Jasmin Paris climbing Barkley Marathons loop three 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
Jasmin Paris at the 2023 Barkley Marathons [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

It’s going to be a compelling storyline and few know the Barkley better than US ultrarunning star John Kelly, not only a former Spine Race winner but also a two-time Barkley finisher.

Speaking to us last year he insisted there’s absolutely no reason why Paris can’t complete the coveted five loops.

And what’s also clear is that it’s a driving ambition for Paris. As one of the co-founders of ‘The Green Runners’, she is hugely mindful of her carbon footprint and a return trip to Tennessee will not have been taken lightly.

But writing on her blog after last year’s near miss she said: “It was a great privilege and huge inspiration to witness Aurélien Sanchez, John Kelly and Karel Sabbe as they each finished the final loop of the Barkley Marathons and touched the yellow gate for the fifth time. I hope that one day I will do the same. Until then, I am grateful to have discovered a little more about myself, amongst the beautiful wilderness of Frozen Head.”

We’ll find out in the next 60 hours whether history will be made by Jasmin – or any of the other female runners – and our live race page will keep you updated with what’s happening from start to finish.

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

THE SBRX Show

In episode 1 of our new SBRX Show we sit down with ultra runners and coaches Kim and Jayson Cavill to get their take on the Barkley Marathons and triathlon & trail running gear reviews, training tips and more

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