Hospital for Small Animals

Vet becomes first woman to finish extreme race

Elite ultrarunner is only 20th person to complete the Barkley Marathons in its 38-year history

woman in forest setting walking determinedly uphill using walking poles
photo credit: Howie Stern

Dr Jasmin Paris, a veterinary surgeon at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies Hospital for Small Animals, has become the first woman to complete the Barkley Marathons, one of the world’s toughest sporting challenges.

The record breaking ultrarunner cemented her place in the history books by finishing the gruelling 100-mile race within its 60-hour time limit.

Extreme challenge

Infamous for being one of the hardest ultramarathons in the world, the Barkley Marathons sees runners race to complete five loops of an unmarked 20-mile circuit.

Held annually in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, the race was inspired by the prison-break of Martin Luther King Jnr’s assassin in 1977. Each year, competitors will climb 63,000 feet, twice the height of Mount Everest, over the course of the self-navigated race. Over 98% of those who enter the race fail to finish.

The Barkley Marathons is a famously quirky race, beginning when the race director Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell lights a cigarette. Runners, who aren’t allowed GPS devices, phones or watches, must collect pages from books at specific checkpoints to prove that they have complete the course correctly.

Elite achievement

woman wearing a head torch running in the dark
photo credit: Howie Stern

Dr Paris works as a veterinary surgeon in the Hospital for Small Animals and competes in ultramarathons around the world in her spare time.

Her achievements as an elite ultra-marathon runner are well-documented, including summiting a record-breaking 29 Munros – Scottish mountains over 3000 feet – within 24 hours.

In 2019, she ran the 268-mile Spine Race across the Pennine Way in just over 83 hours, famously pausing to express breast milk for her baby, before going on to win the gruelling challenge, slicing 12 hours off the record time.

Dr Paris was first invited to compete in the Barkley Marathons in 2022, when she completed three loops of the 20-mile circuit, ironically referred to by the race organisers as the ‘fun run’. She returned in 2023 and completed four loops. This year Dr Paris made history by completed all five loops with 60 hours, only the 20th person in the race’s history to do so, and the first woman to reach the yellow gate that marks the finish line.

I'm super happy that I achieved what I set out to do. But 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. The idea that I might have inspired them to believe in themselves… that's huge.

Dr Jasmin Paris, Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Internal Medicine, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studiestalking to BBC News

 

It is an honour to call Jasmin a colleague and we were all delighted to hear the news from the Barkley Marathons. Everyone at the University sends their huge congratulations to Jasmin. She is truly an exceptional sportsperson and is an inspiration to our whole University community.

Professor Peter MathiesonPrincipal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh

About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies 

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos. 

The School comprises: 

The Roslin Institute 

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems 

The Roslin Innovation Centre 

The Hospital for Small Animals 

Equine Veterinary Services 

Farm Animal Services 

Easter Bush Pathology 

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education 

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge. 

Related Links

 Interview with Jasmin Paris in 2022 for University of Edinburgh's SCOPE magazine