Jasmin Paris is a top British ultra, fell and mountain runner. She won the 268 mile Montane Spine race outright in 2019, breaking the course record by over 12 hours. Recently she completed 3 loops at the Barkley marathon, the first woman to do so since 2013. Jasmin and I did our specialist veterinary training at Edinburgh University (the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Sciences - R(D)SVS) at the same time - my memories of her were that she worked very hard (specialist training is notoriously gruelling with long days and sometimes nights), was very conscientious, and that she ate a lot of raw carrots! I asked Jasmin how she balances a tough work life with running, her training and racing, and how runners can speak out about climate change.
Are you still working at R(D)SVS? Am I right in thinking you did a PhD after your specialist board exams? What is your clinical/non-clinical split these days?
Yes, I finished my residency in 2014, then did a PhD 2015-2019, which included a break when my daughter was born. Since then I've worked as a clinician at R(D)SVS, doing a mixture of clinical and research work in roughly a 40:60 split.
I find that after a full day on clinics, on my feet, I’m knackered - how do you manage the work fatigue alongside your running? Do you adapt your training to allow for overnight cases etc?
It's not easy to be honest, especially since having the children. I almost never run in the evenings, partly because I'm too tired by then, and partly because there is too much to do with family dinner, bath and bedtime. Instead I do my training first thing in the morning, typically around 5-5.30am. I luckily don't get called in to work out of hours too often, only for occasional endoscopies (typically dogs who have eaten something they shouldn't!). If for some reason I'm especially exhausted, I do skip training, or at least move harder sessions to another day.
You’re coached by Damian Hall I think - how did you come to ask him for help? Had you been coached previously? What’s important for you in a coaching relationship?
Yes, I started being coached when I was preparing for the 2019 Montane Spine race. Damian was a friend I'd met on the 2015 Dragon's Back race, and I knew he would understand the constraints of work and family, as well as my desire to keep running fun. In turn, having a coach gave me a schedule to follow without having to think, as well as someone to be accountable to, both really useful at a time when I was struggling with time and motivation for 5am winter training runs.
If you had a free day where you could run any distance or terrain what would you choose?
I think I'd choose to spend a day running with my partner (Konrad Rawlik) somewhere wild and hilly in Scotland. Since having children we rarely get the chance to run together anymore, so it's a real treat when we do. I'd love to visit Knoydart, I've wanted to go there ever since I missed a family trip in 2013, when I was desperately working towards a deadline for credentials (for my residency requirements). In my imagination we'd run all day, then sleep up high under the stars, on a breezy night (no midges!) and then descend for a swim in the sea with the children the next morning.
Loic Tregan - Els 2900
What does a normal training week look like i.e. days per week, do you do interval sessions or hill reps etc?
I train 6 days a week, usually including one harder interval session (varies between flat and hill reps, sometimes a combination of both), and a couple of longer runs, one of which includes 20-40 minutes of moderate effort in the first hour. The rest of the runs are 'easy', although they frequently include a set of 20-30 second bursts of effort (strides). Overall, I probably run around 60-70 miles a week on average when I’m training, maybe 20 miles more towards the end of a big training block.
Do you have any set rest days?
Yes, I have one day a week as a rest day, usually a Monday.
Sierre Zinal - Konrad Rawlik
What is your favourite location to run and why?
It’s difficult to disentangle my answer to that question from my favourite location per se, so I’d probably have to list Jura (we got married there, and return every year for the wonderful Jura Fell Race weekend), our family cottage in Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic (I’m half Czech, so we spent all our childhood holidays there), and the moors of Bleaklow (Dark Peak) where I grew up. From a purely fellrunning perspective, I love the Lake District, especially the area around Wasdale.
What has been your running highlight?
That’s an almost impossible question to answer, there are too many. Nevertheless, a standout memory is the day that Konrad and I spent ‘running’ the Cuillin Ridge on Skye, which was definitely one of the best days of my life. It took us 14 hours (how Finlay did it sub-3 is a mystery to me!), from sunrise at the start to last orders in the pub at the finish, with a lot of laughs and a few climbing-induced wobbles (those were just mine!) in-between to make the experience truly memorable.
Favourite domestic and international races?
For domestic races I’d list Jura Fell Race, the Wasdale Horseshoe, and the Scottish Islands Peaks Race (the latter is a fantastic race involving teams of sailors and runners in a sailing boat, travelling between and over the mountains of Mull, Jura and Arran – I highly recommend it, a hidden gem). For international races, I’d list Els2900 (although I think it no longer takes place, it was a unique race whilst it lasted!), La Petite Trotte à Léon, and now also the Barkley Marathons.
There has been a lot more awareness around RED-S and I’ve got a quite a few friends who have had stress fractures on the return to running after having babies. How do manage your energy intake? Have you had to focus on this during pregnancy or following having your children?
I think I am lucky that I didn’t have any problems in that regard. I felt mildly sick for the entirety of both pregnancies, but eating helped, so I guess that kept me reasonably fuelled. When I was breastfeeding, I found I needed to eat before training (something I rarely did before I had children), and interestingly that requirement has stayed with me since my children were weaned. I think my overall approach to training during and post pregnancy was that I just tried to accommodate for what my body was telling me, from physical limitations, to appetite, to emotional state of mind. That may sound obvious, but I think that as runners (especially ultra runners) we are used to ignoring the voices telling us to stop, so it actually requires some attention to recognise them.
What do you consider your best performance and why?
I guess many people would say my win at the Montane Spine Race in 2019, which I’m certainly very proud of, especially as the mum of a young baby at the time. I think I am probably most proud of my Ramsay Round in 2016 though. It felt like things came together on that occasion for an incredible day in local mountains with close friends, just seeing what I was capable of. For a while afterwards I held the overall record too, which made it extra special.
Have you had a worst performance and why did it happen? How did you deal with it?
Probably my run at UTMB last year was my most disappointing run. I’d done a lot of focused training, including our family holiday in the Alps over the summer, and I was feeling quietly confident beforehand. Then on the day I had stomach issues almost from the start – possibly an infection of some sort since that’s not really something I’ve experienced before – and couldn’t eat without needing to run to the loo. Not surprisingly I ground to a halt halfway through the race, completely drained of energy. I walked another 40km before giving up, only my second ever DNF. I was pretty sad and disappointed at the time, but as soon as I got home to my family the race seemed much less important.
Do you have a running or life philosophy?
I’ve not really written it down before, but I guess my philosophy would be kindness and love, and finding joy in what you do.
You’ve achieved a huge amount in running - what motivates you? Has that changed over time?
I run chiefly because it makes me feel happy and free, and because it takes me into the hills which I love. Since having children, running is also the only time I really have to myself outside work, so it’s become my form of mindfulness, keeping me sane. I do enjoy racing too, although my greatest competition is always with myself, which is why challenges like the Barkley Marathons appeal.
Do you work on your own psychology as part of running?
Not really, although when training for my first attempt at the Barkley I did put in some long (5-7 hour) sessions of hill repeats in the Pentlands, on one occasion summitting Castlelaw Hill 22 times, just to get used to pushing myself through that mental wall. Even my dog gave up going to the top and bottom with me, preferring to wait in the middle and watch!
What are your favourite bits of kit? What running shoes do you train or race in? Do you rotate your running shoes throughout the week?
I’m not one to bother much about kit to be honest, one of the things that I love about running is how little it requires. For shoes I use Inov8 Mudclaws when I need traction on a proper fell race, and Trailfly 270s for pretty much everything else. I have one pair of shoes that are in good condition for racing, and after that I use them in training until they fall apart irreparably.
Have you had any injuries and how have you managed them?
Yes, I’ve had lots, mainly in the early days when I increased my mileage too enthusiastically. Nowadays I have reached more of a stable state, so my main issues relate to a chronic knee injury which I sustained in a riding accident as a 17-year-old, and which left me with a complete tear to the anterior cruciate ligament of my left knee. It was managed conservatively (no surgery), and has been great for over 2 decades, but now the associated wear and tear does cause me some issues over longer distances.
The Spine - Mark Haywood
Do you do any strength work or mobility work?
Yes, I do an online strength class for runners 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes (Coach Dee), and I’ve recently also started a focused set of exercises for my knee, working with Project Physio in Edinburgh.
Who has influenced you most with respect to running?
I think the single biggest influence would surely be my parents. Not only did they introduce me to the hills from an early age, starting a love affair that would last a lifetime, but they also gave me the confidence to try new things, and the self-belief to see them through.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
I’m running a 100-mile race (Cervino Matterhorn Ultra Race) around the Matterhorn in July (we will be staying in the area on our family holiday, so it seemed like an obvious long training run to sign up for!), and then the Tor des Geants in September, which I’m really looking forward to.
You are part of the Green Runners - if there was one change any runner could make what do you think it should be?
In terms of individual action, reducing the carbon cost of travel to events is probably the single biggest change a runner can make, in particular limiting flying to races abroad. However, I think that our collective action as a community is even more important, coming together to call for shifts in global policy, to put climate change at the top of the agenda. Sport is a powerful medium for change, it unites people and brings joy. As runners, we appreciate the natural world and are perfectly poised to campaign for its protection. So, I think our most important change as runners should be to speak out with passion for climate action, and to inspire others to do the same.