Spine Race: Jasmin Paris becomes first female winner of 268-mile ultra marathon

Ultra runner Jasmin Paris
Jasmin Paris is the first female winner of the gruelling race - she finished nearly 10 miles ahead of the second-placed runner

"I did something crazy and entered a race I had vowed I would never, ever run."

Ultra runner Jasmin Paris, 35, was referring to the Montane Spine Race - dubbed "Britain's most brutal race".

Not only did she enter the 268-mile race; on Wednesday, she became the first woman to win it, and smashed the course record by 12 hours in the process.

Paris, who gave birth to daughter Rowan 14 months ago, says motherhood and the comforts of home had seen her motivation for training drop off - so targeting one of the world's toughest endurance races was just the incentive she needed.

"Maybe as a consequence of contentment, my motivation to train took a definite nose-dive," she admitted in a blog post this month.external-link

"I found it harder and harder to leave my bed for the cold darkness outside, and realised that I needed a new focus."

'Britain's most brutal race'

Ultra runner Jasmin Paris
Paris was all smiles after the race - despite 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds of competition that included "sleep deprivation and hallucinations"

The Spine Race, which first took place in 2012, is a non-stop challenge from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.

The gruelling route sees competitors run along the full Pennine Way carrying their own kit throughout, and takes in the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines before runners cross Hadrian's Wall and head into Northumberland's Cheviot Hills.

Wind chill lows of -20C, 45mph winds and the absence of official rest breaks - competitors make stops if and when they need them but their rivals can keep going - mean the 268-mile race is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging, so much so that Paris previously vowed she would never take part.

But Paris, who also works full time as a vet, crossed the finish line at the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm just after 7pm on Wednesday evening, almost 10 miles in front of Spain's 2013 winner Eugeni Rosello Sole, in a record-breaking time of 83 hours 12 minutes 23 seconds.

During the four-day ordeal, she had just over seven hours of rest time, during which she had to eat, sleep, deal with kit - and also breastfeed her daughter.

Unconventional training methods

Ultra runner Jasmin Paris
Paris credits "long hikes with the baby and the rucksack" as the secret to her preparation

Preparing for a marathon is a tough enough task, and ultras - anything over the traditional 26.2-mile distance - can be another step up; but a 268-mile race is something else.

Paris already holds the 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 after returning to competitive running last year won the British Fell Running title.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Paris revealed the secret to her success.

"We're kind of an outdoorsy family, so things like lots of long hikes with the baby and the rucksack are a good way of weight training," she said.

"I did lots of long runs, often mainly in the dark actually, getting up at 4am and training in the dark, carrying my full pack.

"I did long days over Christmas and new year training in the hills, so it was mainly in winter conditions - so that's kind of important.

"A lot of the running has taken place really early in the morning so that's kind of the way I squeeze it in and still balance it with spending time with my daughter."

Hallucinations and sleep deprivation

Ultra runner Jasmin Paris
The 35-year-old trekked through darkness for two-thirds of the 268-mile course

Overcoming mental obstacles became part of the experience for Jasmin, who experienced hallucinations throughout the course.

"It is really tough; it's dark for two-thirds of the time you're running," the 35-year-old added.

"It's a completely different race than any race I've ever run before because it's non-stop so you have the whole challenge of when do you sleep, and that becomes very tactical - and then you're sleep deprived.

"Yesterday, I was on the final section and I kept seeing animals appearing out of every rock, and I kept forgetting what I was doing and every so often I'd come to with a start and think 'what am I doing here?' and then I'd remember I'm walking the Pennine Way.

"I say walking, because by yesterday afternoon, there wasn't much running going on any more.

"So yes, hallucinations and on top of that it was very cold, so I was wearing all of my clothes by the time I finished yesterday."

And having gone back on her resolution never to do it, would she be back for a second go?

"Right now, it's more of a maybe, but last night it was very much a no."


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.


Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC