Goals surrounding fitness are pretty common. In fact, every year, the most common New Year’s resolution is to increase exercise. For many well-intentioned goal-setters, that usually means getting to the gym more regularly or training for a community 5K race. But Phoenix, Arizona-resident Jacky Hunt-Broersma isn’t a typical goal-setter. You see, she decided to set a new world record by running the most consecutive marathons.
And she did it! 46-year-old Hunt-Broersma ran a record-breaking 104 marathons in 104 days in early 2022, including the iconic Boston Marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles… and she did it 104 times in a row. As if that wasn’t already incredible, this ultra-runner just so happens to be a member of the disability community as an amputee.
Hunt-Broersma says her extreme fitness goal was inspired by Alyssa Amos Clark, a non-disabled athlete who started a personal endurance challenge on her treadmill to pass time during the COVID-19 lockdown phase. Clark, of Vermont, ended up completing 95 marathons in 95 days, achieving a then-new Guinness World Record. Hunt-Broersma wondered if she could also push her body that far — and beyond. So, she set out to conquer a lofty 100 marathons in 100 days; only to be edged out by another ultra-runner, Kate Jayden, a British athlete who achieved that record-setting milestone feat merely days prior to Hunt-Broersma’s scheduled completion. That nudged Hunt-Broersma to up her goal to 104 consecutive marathons.
Ability Over Disability
A South African native, Hunt-Broersma battled Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the tissue around the bones. In 2001, just three weeks after her cancer diagnosis, doctors decided to amputate her lower left leg to prevent the cancer from spreading. She was 26 years old at the time.
Surprising to many, Hunt-Broersma wasn’t much of a runner before the amputation. “Running is something, even though I wasn’t doing it [before surgery], you kind of take for granted because you could just put a pair of shoes on and go,” she explained in an interview.
Following surgery, however, she was driven to prove something to herself and to others who pigeon-holed her as a person with limitations. Fueled by her stubbornness and determination, Hunt-Broersma jumped full speed ahead into the sport of running by investing in a carbon-fiber prosthetic running blade, which cost a whopping $10,000.
Because standard prosthetics aren’t sufficient for strenuous running, the decision of an amputee to pursue endurance running is much different than someone who buys a pair of sneakers to easily satisfy a New Year’s resolution. Obviously, the costly commitment turned out to be worth every penny and more for Hunt-Broersma. She learned to accept and appreciate her limb-different body, and gained confidence.
The Heart of Hard Things
The journey was, of course, very hard. Hunt-Broersma had to quickly figure out what her body needed for performance fuel and recovery, which trails and road routes were ideal, and which running partners were truly helpful and motivating. The pain went beyond basic blisters; the friction on her leg stump was significant. And the challenge wasn’t just physical. Her mental strength was also put to the test. Sometimes she just took one step at a time – literally and figuratively. Naturally, there were both good days and bad days. But Hunt-Broersma set a goal; and, she says, “I hate quitting on anything!” So she kept at it… day after day after day.
There really wasn’t time to slack off either. Every day, Hunt-Broersma had to squeeze in a marathon-length run between dropping off and picking up her two children from school. And she couldn’t just kick her legs up afterward; dinner had to be made and homework had to be checked. Hunt-Broersma attests that the experience undoubtedly served as a meaningful life lesson for her children – that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.
Hunt-Broersma works as a coach and, one could certainly imagine, that her first-hand experience is priceless motivation to others. If you’re doing the math: 26.2 x 104 = 2,724.8 miles in 104 days! She is one of the most accomplished amputee athletes of all time. Actually, scratch that… she’s one of the most accomplished athletes (disabled or non-disabled) – period!
It takes a bit of time for Guinness to certify new world records, and AmeriDisability can’t wait to see this accomplishment officially hit the books. Hunt-Broersma attests that “we are so much more capable than what we think,” and she hopes other members of the disability community follow in her footsteps to challenge themselves without limits.
More Than a Personal Goal
As part of her marathon quest, Hunt-Broersma raised nearly $200,000 for Amputee Blade Runners, an organization that helps people with limb differences access quality prosthetics. Thanks to the large fundraising contribution, at least 50 other para-athletes will be outfitted with high-end running blades.
“Here in the [United] States, running blades are really expensive and health insurance doesn’t cover it; they see it as a luxury. So I thought it would be a great way to raise money for charity and it would be a good way to give back,” Hunt-Broersma shared with ESPN.
Oh, and that’s not all this amputee runner has accomplished. In 2020, before her 104 marathon quest, Hunt-Broersma became the first amputee to run 100 miles nonstop on a treadmill. Through the Aravaipa Strong Virtual Race, she ran for 23 hours and 38 minutes straight! She credits her husband, Edwin, with making sure she didn’t fall asleep during the wee hours.
To keep up with Hunt-Broersma’s remarkable running adventures, follow her on Facebook.