The Herald - Herald Sport
Paris happy to take the long way round
Scot gearing up for somewhat of a respite from gruelling circuit
ALL elite athletes have something extraordinary about them. When it comes to Jasmin Paris, however, everything is extraordinary. The 39-year-old Scot is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest ultra-runners of her generation, and perhaps ever.
She has countless records to her name, has been lauded by the likes of Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Streisand and has done more than most to shine a spotlight on the somewhat niche world of ultra-running.
Such is Paris’s prowess over unthinkably long distances – she’s had some of her best results in races lasting over 24 hours and stretching hundreds of miles – this week’s World Mountain and Trail Champs, which begin today in Austria, will feel like something of a sprint to her.
Paris is one of eight Scots selected in the 33-strong GB team and will race the long trail race which is, by her standards, a modest 85km.
Paris’s lead-up to these World Championships says everything about the size of the challenge she likes to embrace.
Earlier this year, Paris raced the Barkley Marathon, a trail ultra-race in rural Tennessee in America that’s widely regarded as the toughest race on the planet, which is backed up by the incredible statistic that in the event’s 37-year history, it’s been completed by only 18 people in total.
While a race with such a reputation would make most people baulk, it’s exactly the kind of challenge Paris embraces and while she ended-up withdrawing after four laps, which took two whole days, she relished the experience.
“Barkley is a unique challenge. It’s difficult to describe it,” she says.
“I feel very fortunate to have been able to race it because not many people get the chance each year. But it’s incredibly hard because you need to concentrate fully the entire time. There’s lots of things about it that make it tough – if you win it, you’re running for about 60 hours with no sleep. Three people finished it this year and only one slept, for about 20 minutes.
“You have to really, really want it to do well.”
It’s not only Paris’s Barkley attempts – this year’s race was her second time entering the event – that make her stand out, she has a raft of further records and accolades under her belt.
During the course of her career, she has set women’s records for the UK’s three premier 24-hour mountain running challenges – the
Bob Graham Round in England’s Lake District, Scotland’s Ramsay Round and the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales.
In 2016, she won the Extreme Skyrunning World Series and is a former British Fell Running champion.
Perhaps her most eye-catching achievement, however, was her victory in the Spine Race in 2019.
Not only did Paris become the first woman to win the 268-mile race, she smashed the course record by 12 hours in the process, and did so while pausing to express breastmilk at aid stations for her young daughter, who she was still breastfeeding.
They’re remarkable achievements for someone who had few intentions of becoming an elite athlete when she began running.
In fact, her motivation remains little to do with winning and much more to do with the enjoyment she garners from being in the mountains. However, she also possesses a few personality traits that have helped her become one of the very best in the world.
“I did a lot of hiking when I was a kid and I love being out in nature. The mountains make me really happy so starting running was quite a natural progression.
“There is a real buzz when you’re fit and can move fast through the mountains,” she says.
“Why I’ve ended up doing well at racing is that when I do something, I really throw myself into it. I’m a perfectionist and I work pretty hard at what I want to do. I’m prepared to suffer, too. And I’m stubborn and single-minded, so all of those things help.”
It’s not only Paris’ racing achievements that are notable.
Having spent so much of her life out in the wild, it’s perhaps unsurprising that she’s acutely aware of the effects of climate change and the impact each individual’s carbon footprint has on the environment.
Which is why she decided that rather than travel to these World Championships with her GB compatriots by air, she wanted to limit her environmental impact by going by train.
So, a relatively short journey turned into an all-day journey, but it’s a sacrifice she was more than willing to make for the sake of the planet.
“Going to Innsbruk by train is a longer journey but I don’t think it’ll impact how I’ll perform in the race,” she says.
“I promised myself if I could get somewhere by land and sea rather than flying, I’d do that. And hopefully, by me talking about it, it can raise the profile of the cause a little bit more.”
When Paris stands on the start line on Friday, she will be consumed not by thoughts of gold but instead by thoughts of getting everything out of herself.
With the exertions of the Barkley Marathon still in her legs, there’s the possibility that the pace will be just too fast for her to keep in touch with the leaders. But, as always with Paris, there’s always the possibility that she does something extraordinary.
“I don’t know if I’ll be running at my very best after Barkley but
I’ll give it my very best shot,” she says.
“I want to feel like I’ve been competitive and run a good race.
It’d be really nice for the team to be on the podium so it’d be great to help towards that but I don’t really know – I’ll just give it everything and see what happens.”
I’m a perfectionist and I work pretty hard at what I want to do. I’m prepared to suffer, too. And I’m stubborn and single-minded, so those things help