Barkley Marathon: Amazonian Competitor Defeats Forest

The Barkley Marathon is run through virtually impenetrable forest over a 100-mile course amounting to an ascent and descent of Mount Everest. It is devoid of course markings and GPS is forbidden. But these were seen as challenges rather than obstacles to the first woman to complete the grueling run.

What is the Barkley Marathon?

The Barkley is not a marathon. In 490 BC, Pheidippides, ran from Marathon to warn Athenians that the Persians were sailing to sack their city. The original marathon was 42.195 km (26 miles 385 yards). The Barkley is 100 miles (160.93 km). Another difference: The only twenty people to have finished the Barkley did not immediately die – as Pheidippides did. The Barkley was inspired by James Earl Ray, who assassinated civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. Ray had escaped from prison into the pitiless terrain of Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. He was recaptured after traveling only eight miles in 54 hours. The Barkley co-founders, Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell and Karl Henn felt they could have done better. The run was named for Barry Barkley, a friend of the co-founders, who was injured in the Vietnam War.

Who is Jasmin Paris?

Unassuming and determined characterizes Jasmin Paris. She practices as a small animal vet. She grew up in Britain’s Peak District National Park but also thrived on the freedom of visiting and living in a remote village in her mother’s native Czech Republic. She was drawn to fell running, a form of hill running on the high and barren hills in northern England. A horse-riding injury meant was advised to avoid hard running surfaces so she stuck to trail running. Her running success led to an invitation to run the Barkley. She had a go in 2022 and 2023 but the mountain course of five 20-mile loops, taking the runners up and down 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) that had to be mastered in 60 hours, defeated her.

“But more celebrated was that she became the first woman to finish the race”

What is special about Jasmin’s Barkley run?

Jasmin Paris touched the yellow gate marking the end of the Barkley Marathon in March this year. She slumped to the ground exhausted, her legs shredded. She was one of a record five people to complete the race. Of each year’s 40 runners, only 20 have succeeded in finishing the punishing course in the race’s 28-year history. But more celebrated was that Jasmin became the first woman to finish the race. She arrived at the yellow gate start/finish line in a time of 59 hours, 58 minutes, and 21 seconds, with just 99 seconds before the 60-hour cutoff.