Green Runners co-founder Jasmin Paris makes history at Barkley Marathon

Jasmin Paris holds her head in her hand at the end of the Barkley Marathon. She is slumped on the ground beneath the gate which marks the finish, surrounded by onlookers
Credit: David Miller

Jasmin Paris – co-founder of The Green Runners – has become the first woman to finish the infamous Barkley Marathons race. The Edinburgh-based runner completed her five 20-plus-mile loops with just one minute and 39 seconds to spare.

It was one of the most thrilling editions of the race, with seven runners starting the final loop and five ultimately finishing – the most ever. Alongside Jasmin, fellow co-founder Damian Hall returned to the race for his second attempt. John Kelly, who recently joined The Green Runners, finished the full five loops for the third time – a joint record. Unfortunately, despite starting loop five, Damian couldn’t complete the final loop after a navigation error.

We at The Green Runners are incredibly proud of our members for their efforts at the race, with Jasmin’s success sending awareness of The Green Runners into the stratosphere.

“It’s an immense feeling of joy and excitement, and also still a little disbelief”, said Jasmin when we spoke to her. “I’ve been focused on this for the last three years, so it’s the product of thousands of miles and metres climbed, early morning alarms, and freezing hours on the hills. I’m so grateful for those who have helped me along the way, from the runners and crew at Barkley, to friends and family at home, and especially Konrad and our parents.”

Videos have since gone viral on social media of Jasmin’s final run to the finish line, as she raced the 60-hour cut-off time. Reflecting on the final loop, she said she was doing everything she could to keep running, realising with six hours to go that things were going to be incredibly tight.

Jasmin Paris hiking through the forest of Frozen Head State Park on her Barkley Marathon
Credit: David Miller

Down to the wire

“When I started on the last loop I knew I needed to run it faster than loop four, but that I would also be alone and even more tired, making mistakes more likely”, she said to us. “It sounds a little bizarre, but this year I had a really strong feeling that I could finish five loops, and that never left me. Even when the timings from previous loops indicated it was impossible, I still believed. I’m not even sure why, but it was very powerful.”

She said the thought of going through all five loops again in the future was enough to spur her on to the finish. Arriving at the gate to riotous cheers, she collapsed in exhaustion – history made.

“I’d thought I was as far into the pain cave as I could make myself go, but I discovered then that there was another corridor leading on. All the edges went blurry, and I just ran for that gate with everything I had, before collapsing, gasping for air.”

Damian Hall described that moment as “the greatest sporting achievement” he has seen in person. The two are close friends, with Damian coaching Jasmin and being part of the founding team of The Green Runners. “It was a mind-blowing achievement and incredible to see history in the making.”

For Damian, who has previously won the Spine Race, he sees Barkley as unfinished business. “I wish I’d got it done this year, so I wouldn’t need to fly to the event next year. But the race is still really tantalising for me; the greatest puzzle in ultra-running.”

The carbon conundrum

Both Jasmin and Damian have made their own Pledges to limit their flights in line with our #HowWeTravel Pillar. Both have spoken previously about their consternation over flying to the event, with Damian writing an insightful blog on the subject. Jasmin said the overseas travel did concern her, but presses it needs to be seen in context.

Jasmin's shoes from the Barkley Marathon, sporting green patches from where she has repaired them
The patched shoes that beat the Barkley

“I do believe that we should be aiming to fly as little as possible, and as a Green Runner I pledged to travel to fewer races and to do so by land/sea where possible, as I did for UTMB 2022 and the World Trail Running Championships last year.

“I also believe that it is better for us all to try and be greener, than to make an impossible ideal that most people will turn away from. Barkley was something I couldn’t replicate, or replace with an alternative event – it’s just too unique.” 

Going forward Jasmin plans to have several years of no flying, or one flight maximum.

Damian, whose Pledge was to take one return flight for running per year maximum and travel to other races by train, bus or other low carbon options, added: “There are very few events I would fly to, but Barkley is one. In an ideal world, we will all wander around emitting no emissions. That just isn’t possible. I have made lots of personal changes – renewable energy to my home, going vegan, changing banks, reducing travel.

“I used to average three flights a year for running, but didn’t fly for three years, so I have now flown twice in five. Personally, my carbon emissions are still smaller than most, and I think if we are all doing something to reduce our emissions – even a small amount – the planet will be far better off than a handful of people eliminating flying altogether.”

It’s worth remembering 1% of the world’s population are responsible for 50% of aviation emissions. At The Green Runners, we strongly believe we cannot put unachievable expectations on people while the greatest burden often lies at the other end of the spectrum.

Both also referenced the immense increase in awareness of The Green Runners and our work to encourage behaviour change, as well as Jasmin’s influence on women’s perception of themselves in ultra-running.

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