When amputee Jacky Hunt-Broersma told her doctors six years ago that she wanted to take up long-distance running, they advised against it. Then, she decided to break world records.
The 46-year-old mom of two is currently attempting to complete 102 marathons in 102 days, which is the world record for women, with or without a disability. She recently finished the Boston Marathon on April 18 with a 5:05:13 time, as well as other 26.2-mile races on trails near her home in Gilbert, Arizona, and on her treadmill. As of Monday, she had completed 99 marathons in 99 days.
Hunt-Broersma is no stranger to shattering world records. In 2020, she ran 100 miles on a treadmill, taking breaks only to refuel and use the bathroom. It was a world record for miles on a treadmill for an amputee.
“I feel like I can inspire people,” Hunt-Broersma told Know Your Value. “I'm a big believer that you're a lot more capable than you think.”
Hunt-Broersma, who was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, had her leg amputated in 2001 at the age of 25 after contracting Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer that can occur in and around the bones. She needed an amputation to prevent the disease from spreading.
“It happened very quickly,” she recounted. “In the span of three weeks, I learned about my diagnosis, and had to be in surgery. I didn’t have time to take it in.”
The operation was successful, but Hunt-Broersma quickly had to learn to adapt to a new life, which included walking on a prosthetic leg.
“I didn't want to be an amputee. I just wanted to be normal. I would hide it. I was not ashamed but I just didn't want to be that. When you’re an amputee, you’re classified as disabled and nobody expects anything from you,” she said.
After watching her husband Edwin run in a few marathons, Hunt-Broersma felt inspired to try it out six years ago, using an athletic prosthetic leg called a blade runner. She was 40 years old with two kids—now aged 9 and 11—and she had never been athletic before in her life, she said.
“In South Africa, I was the kid who would hide during gym class whenever there was any running involved,” she said.
Hunt-Broersma worked in pharmaceutical marketing, traveling around Europe and eventually landed in Gilbert, Arizona. She completed her first 40-mile race in in 2012. She ran a half marathon in 2016, and a full marathon, the Chicago Marathon, in 2012.
“The doctors were very cautious. They thought I was going to fall. But it was amazing, because I was doing something that was perceived as very hard,” said Hunt Broersma. “I think I just fell in love with pushing my boundaries and seeing how far I could go, I kept pushing distance and that’s how I started.”
Hunt-Broersma was inspired by runner Alyssa Clark, who ran 95 marathons in 95 days in 2021. Earlier this month, runner Kate Jayden set the marathon record at 101 marathons in 101 days however, so Hunt-Broersma increased her goal to 102. She averages around five hours per marathon.
“I had seen someone else do it and it was an able-bodied athlete. I thought, ‘If she can do it, why don’t I try and see if I can, too?’”
In the process, Hunt-Broersma has also raised over $16,000 for Amputee Blade Runners, an organization that helps offset the cost of prosthetics for athletes.
Hunt-Broersma is happy to be at the home stretch.
“It’s one step at a time. I have good days. I have bad days. Some days I feel on top of the world. Others, I’ll get to mile 15 and say, I can’t do this anymore. But, you stop, take a deep breath, and just say one more mile. And before you know it, you’ve gone the distance,” she said.
Hunt-Broersma hopes to see other amputees shatter world records.
“Running for me has really changed the way I see myself as an amputee, and it’s given me the courage to be who I am and how strong I can be,” said Hunt-Broersma. “I’d love to see more amputees running in general. You don’t have to do marathons, but I just want to see them feeling free and physically active. You can do whatever you set your mind to.”