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UK Runner Becomes First Woman to Finish Barkley Marathons 

British runner Jasmin Paris made history last week by becoming the first woman to finish the Barkley Marathons, a brutally difficult 100-mile ultramarathon trail race held at Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County, Tennessee. Paris finished the notorious race with just one minute and 39 seconds to spare before the 60-hour cutoff and was one of only five finishers of this year’s race. 

“I was so close to passing out,” Paris told the Guardian of the moment she finished the race. “I felt I was going to reach the finishing gate or collapse right in front of it. It’s the toughest thing I have ever done.”

In its 38-year history, the annual race is known for being nearly impossible to complete. Racers must navigate five 20-mile loops totaling between 100 and 130 miles. Not only that, the terrain is steep and unforgiving with thick brush and an elevation gain of almost 63,000 feet. Out of thousands of entries over the years, only 20 competitors have ever finished in time since the race’s extension to 100 miles in 1989. 

“It’s not the fact that it’s 100 miles that’s the problem – it’s about the terrain,” Paris told the Guardian. “Immediately after we set off we went up a slope so steep that at times my foot would slide back down, and I would have to go again. There were a couple of places we were climbing on our bellies. And this year, there was also a new section that used to be used for hillside mining, it was all covered in brambles so our legs got slashed to pieces.”

According to the Guardian, Paris recalls having hallucinations of animals and sinister figures due to exhaustion and lack of sleep. This year was her third attempt at the Barkley and she shared that the thought of having to do it again if she didn’t finish is what motivated her to push through the last uphill kilometer. 

“I did it for me and I’m super happy that I achieved what I set out to do after the three years of trying,” Paris told the BBC. “But I’m glad that I kind of did it for women worldwide as well—not just runners—but any woman that wants to take on a challenge and maybe doesn’t have the confidence.”

Cover photo: Jasmin Paris at 2018 Buttermere Horseshoe by Paul Dobson. CC BY 2.0 DEED Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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