Jacky Hunt-Broersma runs 104 marathons in 104 days as an amputee athlete

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CNN

For some runners, the prospect of running the 26.2 miles of a marathon is enough of a challenge. But getting up the next day and running another — and repeating the routine for the next three and a half months — requires a particular mix of endurance, dedication and what some would call madness.

At least that’s what Jacky Hunt-Broersma, an amputee endurance runner based in Arizona, might have thought before getting into the sport nearly six years ago.

“I wasn’t a runner until I had an amputee,” she told CNN Sport, “I thought runners were crazy… But I gradually got a bit addicted to it.”

Fast forward to 2022 and Hunt-Broersma, 46, has just completed the feat of running 104 marathons in 104 consecutive days between January and April.

Initially giving herself the goal of 100 marathons in 100 days, she began the challenge with several unknowns: “Is my stump going to be able to hold the kilometers? Will my blade hold up? – but over the weeks, she surprised herself time and time again.

“I had no idea how my body would react, and that showed me how strong our bodies can be,” says Hunt-Broersma. “Every day I just got into it and got stronger and stronger…your body is just amazing.”

Hunt-Broersma is running her 102nd marathon in 102 days in Arizona.
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The challenge, it turned out, was “90% mental versus physical.” Summoning the motivation to get out every day and run the marathon distance was often the biggest battle.

“You just didn’t know what the day would bring,” adds Hunt-Broersma.

“It was kind of… going with the flow a bit. Some days you just have to do it – suck and (put) one foot in front of the next one and go – and then other days you’ll feel good and it’s like you’re flying.

Running most of the marathons around her home in Gilbert, AZ, Hunt-Broersma has done some on a treadmill and competed in the Boston Marathon for her 92nd.

Competing on the streets of Boston was one of the highs of the challenge, but there were also a lot of lows, especially at the 50 marathon mark when the thought of quitting smoking crossed her mind.

“It was a weird moment because physically I felt good,” Hunt-Broersma said.

“My body – obviously it hurt and stuff – but there was nothing wrong with that; it was just my mind that was done.

“I kind of had to fight those emotions to just push through and just say, ‘You know what, no, you can still do it. You can continue. And once I get over that, you just move on to hitting the target. It’s like you just need to hit that 100.”

Hunt-Broersma is waiting to see if her record attempt for consecutive marathons is confirmed.

Before that, there had been another low point 15 days earlier when she decided to split her daily run into two half-marathons to make time for her children.

But after people questioned whether splitting a marathon was within the ‘rules’ of the challenge, Hunt-Broersma felt she had no choice but to run another full marathon that night, finishing it. finally five minutes before midnight.

“I didn’t want to get to 100 and then he would come back and say, ‘Well, actually, that one didn’t count.’ I would be mortified,” she said.

“So I was like, ‘Ok, okay, you know what? I’m just gonna have to go out and do this. And that’s kind of what I did. I don’t know how I managed to do it, but I did it… You learn to just inhale and do it.

Since completing her 104th marathon, Hunt-Broersma has begun the process of applying to have her achievement officially recognized by Guinness World Records, with the current record of 95 set by American Alyssa Clark in 2020.

Getting a record ratified isn’t easy. The months-long process involves submitting GPX files of each race, start, middle and finish photos, video footage and a witness report.

“That process is probably more difficult than the racing part, to be honest,” Hunt-Broersma jokingly suggests.

Born and raised in South Africa, Hunt-Broersma lived in England and the Netherlands before moving to the United States.

Her leg was amputated after she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare type of cancer affecting the bones or the tissues around the bones – in 2001. Thanks to running, which she resumed 15 years later, she began to appreciate what his body was truly capable of.

Hunt-Broersma is now training for two ultra-marathons later this year.

“When I became an amputee, you become very limited – everyone tells you, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,'” says Hunt-Broersma. “And then when I put on a racing blade, there was a sense of freedom. It felt like I was flying and doing something that I thought I couldn’t do.

She started with five-kilometre races before rapidly progressing through the distances – 10km, half-marathons, marathons and now ultra-marathons.

She is currently training to compete to compete in the Leadville 100 – a 100-mile race in Leadville, Colorado called “Race Across The Sky” – in August and Moab 240 – a 240-mile race through the deserts of Utah. , rocks and mountains – in October.

Competing in these iconic endurance events is a far cry from when Hunt-Broersma first started racing.

“There was an element where I was ashamed of who I was,” she says. “I didn’t want to be amputated. I didn’t want people to see me as different.

“While running has given me confidence – I can just be who I am. am now.

As part of her marathon challenge, Hunt-Broersma raised nearly $200,000 for Amputee Blade Runners, a charity that provides – often expensive – running blades to amputees.

It far exceeded her initial expectations of $10,000 – just as she exceeded her own expectations by running 104 consecutive marathons.

“With my running, it taught me that I’m capable of so much more,” says Hunt-Broersma. “I thought it would be a great way to show people what you could do if you just pushed yourself out of your comfort zone.”

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