RUN247 / Running News / Trail Running News / From “like a corpse” to sporting history: Laz Lake’s SPELLBINDING Jasmin Paris tribute

From “like a corpse” to sporting history: Laz Lake’s SPELLBINDING Jasmin Paris tribute

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Updated on

Jasmin Paris has made headlines around the globe since becoming the first woman to finish the infamous Barkley Marathons last week.

She’s clearly inspired thousands and created interest like never before in both the Barkley and the sport as a whole, with fellow ultrarunning greats such as John Kelly and Damian Hall suggesting her achievement may never be topped.

But now there’s been a fascinating insight from the man who created the Barkley Marathons in the first place – Laz Lake, real name Gary Cantrell.

‘Jasmin Paris achieved the impossible’

There’s been many a repost of a video from the past (see the embed below) where he suggested a woman would never complete the five 20-mile loops of the Barkley inside the allotted 60 hours (Jasmin had 99 seconds to spare).

But it was actually Lake who first suggested Jasmin might be the one to shatter that glass ceiling. And clearly in evidence once again in Laz’s recap of the Barkley this week is that fine balance between trying to push all the runners to new heights, while demonstrating a real duty of care.

Or as Eoin Keith, a two-time Barkley runner, put it far better: “Sometimes people think that Laz doesn’t like it when people succeed and finish the Barkley. The reality is exactly the opposite. He sets a very high bar to challenge people to achieve something special, and he loves seeing people taking on the challenge and going on to succeed.”

Writing on Facebook, Laz himself said: “Jasmin Paris achieved the impossible. And to achieve the impossible you have to do the impossible.

“That stirring, emotion-charged finish is only a fraction of the real story. Jasmin went out too fast.

“If you want what you want you have to do what it takes to get it. And what it took to get what she wanted was to go out too fast. And then to transcend human limitations to hang on.

“As a race director you have a responsibility not to let an athlete put theirself in danger. At the barkley that can be a tough call. The standing joke is that every barker starting lap 5 would be pulled off the course in any other event.”

Seconds out

And it sounded like there was a point before the fifth and final loop when Laz was almost like a boxing referee pondering whether to stop the fight – or a corner debating whether to pull their fighter out.

He added: “Jasmin was damaged when she left on the third lap. Between 3 and 4 it looked like an open question if she would be able to continue. But between 4 and 5 she initially looked like a corpse.

“She perked up briefly getting her stuff together to start the last loop. Then her stomach rebelled. Watching her try and get things under control to leave I had an internal debate going on.

“Carl [Laniak, who stepped into Laz’s shoes to some extent this year] was really in charge but he was occupied. And i was supposed to step in and help him when needed. I couldnt abrogate my responsibilities on a technicality.

“So I needed to give the situation serious consideration. Normally it might be advisable to tell her she should get her stomach settled before leaving.

But this wasnt normally. The clock was running and every second had counted for a long, long time.

“Jasmin was not just some ordinary athlete. She had proven herself many times over. The weather was not life threatening…

“But most of all she was on the verge of a transformative performance. She deserved to decide the outcome of her race “out there” so i just watched her head out into the darkness.

“The rest of the story the world knows….

“Or knows most of it. If you have not been “out there” your mind cannot create an image of just how hard it is nor of the sheer horror that is that course.

“Whatever superlative you went to apply to her performance, it was better than that.”

“But that applies to 4 other athletes as well [fellow finishers Ihor Verys, John Kelly, Jared Campbell and Greig Hamilton.”

Lazarus Lake day 2 Barkley Marathons 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
Laz Lake – the mastermind behind the Barkley [Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]
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.  

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