Alumna becomes first woman to win the Spine Race

Published on

Jasmin Paris
Jasmin Paris (photo by Will Roberts/Montane Spine Race)

Jasmin Paris (BVSc 2008) started running in 2008 during her first year in practice. This year she competed in the Spine Race, a 268-mile non-stop race along the Pennine Way. She became the first woman to win the race and also smashed the course record by 12 hours.

Can you tell us a bit about your time at vet school?

I have so many happy memories from vet school, but the very best times were all out at Leahurst. From farm rotations, to dressing up as crocodiles in green boiler suits with homemade heads for initiation, the list is endless. Even the memory of returning home in the early morning light after a night of assisting with colic surgery carries a certain nostalgia.

Were you involved in any sporting activities at vet school?

I was a keen member of the University Open Air Club, and went away to the hills with them most weekends walking. I worked hard during the week so that I didn’t have to study at weekends. I remember going away on a three-day camping trip to Scotland the weekend before our exams in first year, and revising in the car on the journey home for an anatomy exam the next day. I also did some climbing, and dabbled with windsurfing for a while, although that was rather a cold hobby and I didn’t stick at it for long.

What is your current role?

I gained my European Diploma in Companion Animal Internal Medicine in 2014, and since then I’ve been employed as a clinical lecturer at Edinburgh University. I’ve spent the last three years doing a PhD, studying Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, but I’m back on clinics again now. Long-term my aim is to do a mixture of clinical and research work, ideally remaining here in Edinburgh.

What career path led you to your current role?

Throughout vet school I always imagined myself becoming an equine or farm vet, because I enjoyed being outside so much. But in final year I realised I found cat and dog medicine more interesting, and so I switched my focus.

After graduating I got a job at a small animal practice close to home for a year (this was somewhat fortuitous, I took them a cake to say thank you for all their help during my studies and they offered me a job!), and then did a small animal rotating internship in Minnesota, US for a year. I’ve never worked as hard as I did that year, but I’ve also never learnt as much in such a short time.

Missing home and the hills, I returned to UK and moved to Edinburgh to do a residency in Small Animal Internal Medicine. Having gained my diploma in 2014 I was offered a place on the Edinburgh Clinical Academic Track – Veterinary scheme, with a Fellowship from Cancer Research UK to do my PhD.

You only started running in 2008, what inspired you to start?

I’ve never been a road runner; I like to run over the hills and mountains, or by the sea. I’d always done a lot of hill walking, ever since I was a small child with my parents, and so running in the hills was a natural step up I suppose. The catalyst was a colleague who suggested I go along to a local fell race. I ran it in ordinary trainers, so spent most of the descent sliding and falling over, but I loved it and after that I was hooked.

What keeps you motivated?

I just love running and being in the hills, usually that’s motivation enough. If I’m struggling to train that usually means I’m too tired, in which case I know now that I should back off. In terms of racing I have the very best motivation for the tough moments – the thought of my 16-month-old daughter waiting at the finish line.

What type of races had you competed in prior to the Spine Race?

I’ve always enjoyed running long rough fell races most, the wilder the better. I wasn’t particularly good when I started, but improved relatively quickly, and in 2015 I was British Fellrunning Ladies’ Champion. In 2016 I won the World Extreme Skyrunning Championship, and also set records for the three UK long distance running challenges: Bob Graham round in the Lake District (female record), Charlie Ramsay round in Scotland (outright record) and Paddy Buckley round in Wales (female record).

Jasmin Paris

Jasmin crossing the finish line (photo by Stephen Wilson:

Can you tell us about the Spine Race?

The Spine race is a 268-mile non-stop race along the Pennine Way, run in mid-January. Competitors have to carry all their kit (although you can refuel with food along the way), including a sleeping bag, cooking equipment and bivvy, and navigate themselves from start to finish. Given the non-stop nature of the race, sleeping is a tactical challenge – too much and you’ll drop places, too little and you’ll drop out.

I entered the Spine in September last year. I was struggling with motivation and needed something to aim towards, and to get fit for during the dark winter months of training. Running the race was an incredible and all-immersive experience. I found the first night hardest – at that stage I still had more than 200 miles to run, and I was already feeling tired and was missing my daughter.

As the race progressed, the tiredness changed and my competitive spirit took over. The final day, when I was crossing the Cheviot Hills, was the most beautiful and remote. I think I’ll treasure the memory of that for the rest of my life.

What are you training towards next?

I’ve got a place on the GB team for the World Trail Championships in Portugal in June, so I’m currently working towards that. I’ve also entered the Petite Trotte à Léon, a non-stop 300km race around Mont Blanc with 26,000m ascent, in a team with my husband at the end of August, which should be fun. I have a few other running plans too, of a non-racing variety.

Any advice for maintaining a good work life balance?

I think this is so important! For me, having my family, running and the mountains keeps things in perspective and means I’m so much better equipped to cope with the challenges that work brings. I’m also more efficient, both at work and at home, in order to make space for the things I love. Ultimately, I think you need to find something you are passionate about, and then you’ll make time for it somehow.

Have you got a story you’d like to share with us? Get in touch by e-mailing: