By John Murphy
After losing her leg to a rare form of cancer, long-distance runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma spent her life overcoming physical obstacles, climatological hurdles and thousands of miles to do exactly what people said was impossible for her.
This year, for 102 straight days, Hunt-Broersma ran a full marathon — 26.2 miles — every single day. In the process, she braved fierce weather and rewrote the record books, setting a new all-time best for a woman running a marathon for the most consecutive days.
About 20 years ago, Hunt-Broersma contracted a rare type of cancer called Ewing sarcoma, which affects the bones or soft tissues surrounding them, often beginning in the legs. Within three weeks of her diagnosis, she was told her leg would need to be amputated to prevent the disease from spreading further.
Following the surgery, however, she found herself living a completely different life, as everyone around her weighed in with well-meaning advice.
“I was told amputees don’t run, you don’t need to do that, you’ll find you’re an amputee, you don’t need to be fit and healthy — and it frustrated me,” Hunt-Broersma told AccuWeather broadcast meteorologist Adam Del Rosso on AccuWeather Prime.
But the determined mother of two decided to “show the world what we can do.”
Hunt-Broersma got a running blade — a J-shaped prosthetic that is specifically designed for use while running — and hasn’t slowed down since.
“The first time I actually put a running blade on, there was a sense of freedom because I felt, for once, I was doing something that everyone thought I couldn’t do,” she said.
Hunt-Broersma would spend the next six years training as a long-distance runner, and her hard work paid off. She became the first amputee to participate in the TransRockies Run, a 120-mile race in Colorado featuring over 20,000 feet of climbing and running.
In 2020, she set a world record as the first amputee to run 100 miles on a treadmill, and she accomplished it in just 23 hours and 38 minutes.
This year, Hunt-Broersma decided to reach for another world record — one that would take over 100 days to complete.
“I’m a big believer…that we are capable of so much more than…we think. I was like, you know what, I’m gonna see if I can do it and just show the world that you can do hard things if you just put your mind to it,” said Hunt-Broersma.
On Jan. 15, she announced her plans to run a marathon every day for 100 consecutive days, which would top the woman’s record of 95 marathons set by Alyssa Amos Clark in 2020.
“I’m hoping this will inspire others to get out of their comfort [zones] and try something new and truly see what you are capable of. [You’ve] always got more to give,” Hunt-Broersma said in her announcement post on social media.
Before beginning her journey, Hunt-Broersma set up a fundraiser for nonprofit organization Amputee Blade Runners based on her attempt to beat the existing record.
“They are a wonderful charity who provide running blades for amputees. I would love to give running opportunities to [other] amputees like me,” she said of the fundraiser. The prosthetics can easily cost thousands of dollars each.
It wasn’t an easy start for Hunt-Broersma. During the first two weeks, she developed shin splints, where the muscles, tendons and bone tissue around the tibia bone in the leg become inflamed due to changes in or the intensification of a training routine. But despite this setback, she remained confident in her goal.
“I was just going a lot slower and just making sure my body had time to recover, and as you go along, your body adapts and it kind of recovers,” she said.
In addition to shin splints, the long-distance runner also dealt with the swelling of her stump. She expressed to Del Rosso that being smart about these injuries helped prevent major damage over time.
Apart from the physical challenges, Hunt-Broersma also faced weather obstacles. While living in Arizona, she was forced to train and run in extreme temperatures, especially as summer drew closer.
“I did one of my runs, and the [temperature] hit 101, and that is tough,” she said. “You kind of have to be on top of your salt intake, your water.”
Hunt-Broersma said the high temperatures have made her a better athlete and taught her to listen to her body more. When the weather got too extreme, she had to take extra precautions.
“I’ve obviously been smart about it, and when it’s really extreme, I do some of the miles on the treadmill just to help make sure I can get to the end goal because that’s the priority,” she said.
On April 22, Hunt-Broersma ran her 96th consecutive marathon, beating Clark’s record set in 2020. However, earlier in April, British runner Kate Jayden had set a new record at 101 consecutive days. Hunt-Broersma remained focused on her goal to set the record herself.
“I’ve adjusted my goal. I’m still going after the record but will run until at least…102 marathons or maybe more. I feel like I need to totally smash this record,” she said in a Twitter post shortly after Jayden set the new record.
Just a couple of weeks later, on April 28, Hunt-Broersma ran her 102nd consecutive marathon in just as many days, setting a new record for the most consecutive days of running a marathon by a woman.
“I’m kind of feeling really emotional at this point because when I started this journey, I didn’t know how far I would get in the journey because there are so many elements when you’re running with a prosthetic, and I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up. It’s just so incredible just to be here. I just never imagined I’d be here,” she said.
By the end of her journey, Hunt-Broersma had run a total of 2,672 miles over the course of 102 days — about 100 miles less than the distance between New York City and Los Angeles via Interstate 80.
Now that Hunt-Broersma officially holds the record she’s chased most of the year, she can’t wait to spend more time with her family.
“I’m going to spend some really good quality time with my family. They really have missed me. My kids … have been so supportive, but they’ve missed their mom.”
Additional reporting by AccuWeather’s Adam Del Rosso.
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