Earlier in the year, Paris hit headlines in the ultra-running world with the news that she managed to complete the Barkley Marathon “Fun Run”, where three laps of the gruelling race are finished within 40 hours but not within the 36 hours required to start the fourth lap. Paris rightly earned plaudits for her achievement.
Tough pill to swallow
It was with that context that she turned her attention to the UTMB, and she had high expectations of herself.
“I was quietly confident and openly hopeful coming into the UTMB this year,” Paris wrote in a blog post. “We’d spent the summer holiday visiting family and friends in Europe, including 3 weeks in the Alps, a genuine training luxury for someone who works full-time alongside being mum to two small children.”
“As a result, I arrived in Chamonix, after an 18-hour journey from Edinburgh by train and bus, excited but also relaxed in the knowledge that I’d done everything within my powers to prepare.”
But quickly it became clear that things were not right for her. By 10km, her hamstring was hurting and stomach issues also ensured her rythym could never settle.
“As I started the climb of Grand Col Ferret I ground to a halt, quite literally,” Paris said. “Runners began streaming past, offering words of encouragement as they did so. A concerned pair of hikers kept catching me as I shuffled upwards.”
Pretty quickly Paris realised she would not finish the course she had come to with such lofty dreams, but quitting didn’t come naturally to her.
“At some point, when I realised my race was over,” she explained. “I sat down and had a little cry, not only for all the training, the week spent away from the children, and all the people following me at home, but also because after 14 hours of pushing myself despite suffering, I suddenly remembered how mountains make me happy, and I hadn’t had the energy to even contemplate them until that moment.”
“Failing to finish a race isn’t really like me (only my second ever DNF I think, not counting Barkley), and I still feel oddly guilty for doing so, especially as so many people seem to believe in me.
“But I think there is strength too in knowing when to stop, and I hope that I can now turn the disappointment into a positive advantage in the next running challenge I face.”
Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed, with coach Damian Hall commenting that he thought Paris’ race was the most inspiring of the competition.
Paris is also proud of herself for her efforts to make a change to the planet. A co-founder of “The Green Runners,” she travelled to Chamonix not by plane, but by train and bus.
“I’m grateful and happy that my attempt to run UTMB in a climate conscious fashion received a share of the public and media attention this week,” she said.
“I sincerely hope that it will be a catalyst for action in the running community and beyond, towards a fitter planet for all.”