British ultra-runner, Jasmin Paris, has made history this month, becoming the first woman to win the 268-mile Montane Spine Race outright and in record time. Jasmin smashed the previous best by more than 12 hours, completing the brutal non-stop route along the full Pennine Way in 83 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds.
The jasmine flower may spring to mind when you see, hear and read her name – an emblem of delicacy and elegance. Well Jasmin Paris is unquestionably made of tougher stuff – her name and legacy representative only of true grit, determination, dedication and self-transcendence.
A truly epic challenge
The Montane Spine Race follows the tough footpath of the Pennine Way, starting in Edale, Northern England and finishing in the Scottish Borders. The runners have to deal with a rugged and mucky terrain, not to mention gruelling winter conditions they have to confront. Snow, ice, wind, rain and biting cold. Every year the weather conditions are different, making it hard to compare race performances from one year to the next.
But what the inov-8 brand ambassador has achieved is truly incredible and inspiring.
Pushing the boundaries
Jasmin Paris is a machine. An experienced runner who has already accomplished some amazing things, like Bob Graham Round and Ramsay Round records, and first female finisher and second overall in the five-day Dragon's Back Race in Wales. But her exploits have, until now, hardly received public attention. Jasmin is not a full time athlete. She's a mum (to 14 month old baby Rowan) and a veterinary scientist by day. She has to fit her training in between work and family life, which makes this performance all the more impressive. She had her baby 14 months prior to the race and it’s reported that she had to express milk at checkpoints during the race to stop mastitis. All this considered, achieving an outright win of this magnitude, is truly, an incredible feat!
During the Spine Race, navigation and sleep are key. For Jasmin, it was a game of tactics; “The more you sleep the more energy you’ll have. But equally, you're losing time every second you’re sleeping.” Even with fatigue and sleep deprivation (she only slept 3 hours!), she blitzed the race.
Women are paving the way
It’s obviously not the first time a woman has won an ultra race outright. In ultra endurance sports, it’s not unusual for women to win.
In 2017, American ultra-runner Courtney Dauwalter won the Moab 240 Endurance Run in 2 days, 9 hours and 59 minutes: 10 hours in front of second place finisher and first male.
American athlete Rory Bosio made a big splash when she came out of nowhere to win the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) women’s race in 2013 (a 106 mile race with 3,000ft of elevation) when she placed seventh overall, becoming the first female competitor in the overall top 10. And followed it up with another win the next year in 2014.
At the Hardrock 100 race, a woman has been among the top 10 at 8 of the 10 last events.
The competition is getting tougher in mixed-gender endurance events and though female victories are still rare, they are becoming more regular. Indeed, race results and studies suggest that the longer and harder the race, the better the chances women have of beating men. Physiological factors can explain women's ability to surpass men in ultra endurance events, like a better central drive and movement economy. Research shows women's muscles fatigue less quickly! Mental toughness comes into play too!
These results and performances are promising for the coming years. We should witness more exciting and intense events in the future, where genders won't matter.