Britain’s Paris first woman to complete Barkley Marathons

Britain’s Paris first woman to complete Barkley Marathons

BRITAIN’S Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to complete the Barkley Marathons, one of the most demanding and secretive ultra races in the world in which athletes have to cover 100 miles (161 kilometres) in 60 hours.

Paris met the cut-off time by a mere 99 seconds at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee where athletes only have a compass and a rudimentary map at their disposal to find books and tear out the page corresponding with their start number to prove they have reached the checkpoints in each of the five loops, reported dpa.

She is now one of only 20 athletes who have finished the race since the 100-mile distance was introduced in 1989, with an overall elevation of around 65,000 feet, almost 20,000 metres, and more than twice the height of Mt Everest.

Paris had managed three loops in her 2022 debut and had become only the second woman to reach loop four last year.

This year’s race had five finishers for the first time, with Ukrainian Ihor Verys, who lives in Canada, first in 58 hours 44 minutes 59 seconds. American Jared Campbell in third was the first athlete to finish the gruelling event four times.

Only around 40 athletes are allowed to compete in the park with a fragile ecosystem. To further discourage spectators and maintain the mystery the race has no website and no official start time is given but it traditionally takes place in late March or early April.

The race starts anytime between midnight and noon on the set day, with starters informed there is one hour left once organiser Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell blows on a conch shell.

The race gets under way when he lights a cigarette.

No start list is given and the race can only be followed via the X, formerly Twitter, account of Keith Dunn, who is somewhat the only official reporter and gradually releases names and race progress.

Athletes who want to finish must complete each loop within 12 hours. The first two are run clockwise, the next two anti-clockwise, and of those reaching the fifth loop the first one heading into the final loop can choose the direction, with the others alternating.

The race originated when James Earl Ray, who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr, escaped from prison in the region in 1977. He was found after 60 hours, having covered less than 10 miles, prompting the then ultrarunner Cantrell to say he believed he could cover 100 miles in the time.


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