Jasmin Paris is well on her way to crushing the records for the classic big three British fell-running challenges this year. Recently she broke the women's record for the Bob Graham round by over 2.5 hours. Now she's completed the Ramsay Round a whole 45 minutes faster than anyone, man or woman, ever has before. Next it's the Paddy Buckley Round. Who is this under-the-radar fell-raiser? Sarah Stirling tracks her down to find out.
The big three British fell-running challenges
Bob Graham Round, Lake District
42 Lakeland peaks including the four 3,000ers. Bob Graham was the first to run it in under 24 hours back in 1932 (wearing tennis shoes and with bread and butter sarnies in his pocket). His record stood for 28 years.
Ramsay Round, Scotland
60-mile round of 24 peaks including Ben Nevis, the Aonachs and the whole Mamores ridge. First completed in just under 24 hours by Charlie Ramsay in 1978. The new record set by Jasmin Paris is 16hrs13.
Paddy Buckley Round, Wales
A 62-mile circuit of 47 summits including the Snowdon range, Carneddau and Glyderau. Dreamt up by Paddy Buckley and first achieved in under 24 hours by Martin Stone in 1985. Jasmin's next challenge.
Introducing Jasmin Paris
Photo: Ian Corless / www.iancorless.com
JP: I spent much of the descents on my bottom during my first fell race, as I only had standard trainers to run in. Nevertheless I enjoyed the experience immensely and after that I was hooked.
I was brought up in a hill walking family so the transition to fell running was relatively natural. I started running when I left university and lived in Glossop, Derbyshire. The catalyst was a colleague at work, who suggested I go along to that first local fell race – Wormstones.
I now live just outside Edinburgh, which is wonderfully placed for access to the mountains. The whole of Scotland is like a big playground, but if I were to pick one favourite location, it would probably be the Paps of Jura.
I'm a specialist small animal vet. I work for the University of Edinburgh. Currently I'm taking a few years out from clinical work to do a PhD studying acute myeloid leukaemia at the Centre for Regenerate Medicine.
I think the most inspiring people are not necessarily those who achieve the greatest things but those who face the greatest challenges, irrespective of success. I could list many runners who do inspire me greatly though: Helene Whitaker (nee Diamantides), Nicky Spinks and Angela Mudge being top of the ladies’ list.
WATCH: Nicky Spinks run the Bob Graham Round on BMC TV
To give an example though, I ran the Dragon’s Back race in 2015 [she came second] and I remember being struck by the tenacity of those at the back of the race. Scraping in just inside the cut-offs day after day meant they only had a few hours to sleep before having to set off again. The leaders had it easy in comparison!
If I wasn’t having fun, I wouldn’t have the motivation to get out running at the crack of dawn every day, rain or shine. So my tip for a beginner runner is: have fun. For me, that means not running on roads because I hate it, and not having a rigid training plan.
I'm motivated by the places, and the freedom, and those moments of exhilaration and delight, when one feels like running forever. I love running in the mountains, the wilder the better. I prefer to run along small trods, or to avoid paths altogether, and particularly enjoy rocky terrain.
I enjoy the challenge of stretching myself, and testing the boundaries. It’s where one is most exposed and real somehow.
I was delighted to break the Bob Graham women’s record by 2.5 hours. I knew I could beat it, providing I had a good day. But there are so many variables in an attempt like that: in particular the weather! As it was, I was very lucky and everything came together on the day.
The Bob Graham round is the best-known of the classic 24-hour hill running challenges in the UK. The other two are the Paddy Buckley in Wales, and the Ramsey Round in Scotland. I most enjoy long distance running, and I love the scenery and terrain of the Lake District, so the Bob Graham round was the obvious challenge to tackle first.
Breaking the record for the Ramsay Round seemed more personal in some ways. Not only because I live in Scotland but also because only 92 people have completed it to date, and only four of those are females (including me). The Ramsay Round is less well-known than the Bob Graham, but no less of a challenge. In fact many would argue it’s harder on account of the wilder terrain.
There’s a fantastic, friendly community of British fell runners, and at the moment there seems to be a real buzz about these big hill running challenges. It’s exciting to be part of it.
For support on a record attempt, it's typical to have various 'pacers' who take turns running with you and carry any gear or food you might need. I asked friends who I knew would be fast enough to keep up while carrying a pack, and who knew the route well enough to pick out the best lines. My mum was my chief road support on both occasions, and she provided a vast quantity of home-baking to fuel us all!
Before both record rounds I spent several days recceing the best lines. I had checked out the Ramsay Round on visits in 2014 and 2015, and I ran the Bob Graham as a winter round at the start of 2016 in preparation for the fast summer attempt.
I prefer to run for the joy of it, without the pressure of expectations and media coverage. My Bob Graham and Ramsay both just felt like great days out in the hills with friends. That’s how I wanted it.
I think that would change if I made running my profession, so I have no plans to do that. Likewise I have shied away from any official contract with a sponsor. I just value my freedom too highly. That said I act as an ambassador for Inov-8, who support me with all the kit I need, no strings attached. I have always used their shoes anyway, so it suits me perfectly.
The Ramsay Round was my favourite run to date. It was a day of glorious weather spent with good friends, and I know I gave it my all. Descending to the finish from the summit of Ben Nevis with the sound of bagpipes coming up from the valley to greet me was as special as it gets.
I am hoping to run a Paddy Buckley to complete the trio of classic big rounds. I'd like to do it this year, but may struggle to squeeze it into my already rather ambitious racing calendar. We'll have to see!