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Meet amputee ultrarunner Jacky Hunt-Broersma

The North Carolina-based runner became the first amputee to run 100 miles on the treadmill at last week's Aravaipa Strong virtual race

Until just a few years ago, Jacky Hunt-Broersma hated running. She hated it before she had her left leg amputated following a cancer diagnosis, and she continued to hate it more than a decade after. In 2016, she decided to give the sport a try, just to see if she could do it. She signed up for a 5K and got hooked. Four years later, she’s long since graduated from 5Ks to marathons and up to ultras, and this past weekend, she became the first amputee to run 100 miles on a treadmill when she competed in the Aravaipa Strong virtual race, finishing the run in under 24 hours.

Big strides

When Hunt-Broersma—who lives and trains in North Carolina—first started running, she took to the sport right away. Next, she finished a half-marathon in December 2016. Under a year later, she ran the Chicago Marathon, and afterward, she thought, “Why not go a bit farther?”

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Hunt-Broersma says she was told by several people not to go trail running with a prosthetic blade—that if she did, she’d fall, get hurt or just be unable to complete any races. She ignored these warnings, though, and in 2018, she entered her first ultra—a 40-mile trail race in North Carolina. She admits that her blade made the run extra difficult, but that didn’t stop her on the day.

“There was so much mud and there were some downhill sections where I had no grip with my blade, so I had to bum-shuffle my way down,” she says. “But I finished.” Since then, Hunt-Broersma has run several more ultras, including three stages at the TransRockies Run in Colorado last year, becoming the first amputee to compete in the event.

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Aravaipa Strong treadmill run

Coming into 2020, Hunt-Broersma was training for her first 100-mile race, which she was going to run earlier in April, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Since she had the fitness and the training done, when she heard about the Aravaipa Strong virtual race, she decided to give it a shot. When she heard that no amputee had ever run 100 miles on a treadmill before, it made the challenge even more enticing.

She started the run at 8 a.m. last Friday, April 24, and finished the next morning with an official time of 23:38:44. At the 100K mark, she almost quit.

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“When I got to 62 miles, which is 100K, I was just like, ‘If I walk off this now, no one’s gonna care, because 100K is still a long way to go.'” After a break and some food, though, she got back on and powered through the final 60K. “I just suddenly got more energy again and I kept going. It’s funny how you can go from feeling like you can’t finish to finding more energy.”

Hunt-Broersma of course hopes to have an opportunity to do an outdoor race this year (she has another 100-miler planned for October), but she knows that might not happen with the current global health crisis. If October comes and she still can’t race, she says she might consider doing another solo virtual race.

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“It was a good challenge,” she says. “During the treadmill run, I was saying, ‘I am never doing this again.’ But a day later, when I was shuffling around the neighbourhood, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do another.'”