"The race is too hard for women" – 2015 video reveals Barkley Marathons founder never saw Jasmin Paris coming

The Barkley Marathon. Here, the legs of Jim Nelson are cut and bleeding from the thorns of the sawbreyer bushes throughout the course.
On Friday, Jasmin Paris became the first female runner ever to complete the world's toughest ultra (Image credit: The Washington Post / Contributor)

After ultra runner Jasmin Paris made history on Friday as the first woman ever to complete the gnarly Barkley Marathons, a video has resurfaced revealing the founder of the event saying he never thought this day would come.

Paris completed the 100-mile race in Tennesse's Frozen Head State Park – widely regarded as the world's toughest ultra – with just 99 seconds to spare. This was her third attempt at the race, having failed to finish twice, but the race itself is designed eat ultra runners alive. Only 22 runners, including Paris, have ever completed the race in its nearly 40-year history.

In 2015, a video was posted to YouTube, which you can watch below, showing the race founder Gary Cantrell, known as Laz Lake, hiking through the woods and chuckling at the idea of a woman ever finishing.

"The race is too hard for women. They are simply not tough enough to do it. And I get to say that for as long as it goes that no woman proves me wrong."

Cantrell goes on to say he knows that this statement will rub some people the wrong way, but there's nothing anyone can do but get out here and show him he's wrong –a challenge to which Paris rose. 

In fairness to Cantrell, it took another nine years for a woman to prove him wrong, and the video of Paris sprinting to the finish line shows just how brutal the effort was, but it sounds like Cantrell is probably quite happy to be eating his words this week. When asked how he would feel if a woman ever finishes, he responds that he'd be excited.

 "It would be great. Every time someone finishes, I've said this before, I feel elevated just to be present when an achievement of that magnitude is accomplished.

"What they have to endure, the resolve they have to have, the knowledge, the skill, the physical conditioning and just this absolute refusal to surrender. You feel like you're a better person just cuz you saw someone that big. So yeah when a woman finishes I'll be excited."

Prior to Paris' victory, the furthest a female runner had made it on the course was in 2001, when Vermonter Sue Johnston made it 66 miles.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.