Jacky Hunt-Broersma: the queen of running streaks
By Henry Howard
Jacky Hunt-Broersma is on the verge of becoming the queen of running streaks. Most runners who pursue a streak set a goal of a mile or maybe three miles.
Not Hunt-Broersma. She set out to break the women's record for most consecutive days running a marathon. When she started the record was held by Alyssa Clark, who knocked off 95 in a row. While Hunt-Broersma was clicking through her daily marathons little did she know that Kate Jayden was a little ahead of her. Jayden stopped after completing her 101st earlier this month.
“I am going to go at least to 102, just to make sure I've got those extra numbers,” Hunt-Broersma says. “I know a few people have asked, ‘But maybe you should just go into the weekend. Why don't you just go to 104 or 105?’ So we'll see. I've been doing this for 100 days. I need a break.”
After finishing number 96 last week, passing Clark, Hunt-Broersma, admitted her quest was becoming a grind. “It feels good. I'm tired, but I'm looking forward to the end.”
'Interesting to do'
It was Clark’s record that gave Hunt-Broersma the idea.
“I didn't even know it was a thing. This would be interesting to do,” she recalls, noting that she plans on running Moab 240 in October. “I thought this would be quite good base building. This is a typical ultra runner’s thinking.”
Yet Hunt-Broersma isn’t a typical ultra runner.
Before she became a runner, she had a cancerous tumor in her foot. In her battle, she had her leg amputated and runs with a prosthetic now.
“I wasn't sure how far I'd get, because there was so many unknowns with my prosthetic,” she explains. “I didn't know how my stump would handle the pounding every single day. I was just curious to see if I'd push it. But I'm also a big believer in we're capable of so much more than what we think. This is quite a good exercise to show everyone you can get out of your comfort zones and push the limits a little bit further, and you definitely can achieve more than what you think."
Hunt-Broersma is also raising awareness and donations for Amputee Blade Runners, which provide running blades for amputees.
“Running definitely has meant so much to me, being able to do it as an amputee. And running blades are really, really expensive. And not all health insurance covers it. So this is a great charity that actually provides running blades.”
Recovery has been a challenge, given the daily marathons.
“My main priority is to keep my stump healthy,” she says. “When I'm finished, I make sure I ice it because my stump swells up quite a lot. I have to make sure I get that swelling down so I can do the run the next day again. I think I've done a really good job, because so far, with six days left, I surprisingly have not had major issues with my stump.”
As Hunt-Broersma closes in on the record, it’s worth noting the top three recent marathon extremists are all women. (Ricardo Abad Martínez holds the overall record with 607 straight days.)
“I feel like maybe we're stronger mentally,” she says. “I'm not sure. It's taken more mental strength than physical strength. It just seems like the women are crushing these. I don't know where the men are.”
Jayden’s record is still pending certification, which could take months. Hunt-Broersma says there is a lot of paperwork to complete at the end. Part of her paperwork will certainly involve an issue that popped up around her 35th consecutive marathon — “the day I don't want to relive again,” she says.
Hunt-Broersma explains that there are different interpretations of the rules. She is following the rules that say a marathon distance must be completed within a 24-hour time period. Due to a child care issue, she downgraded from a marathon race to a half marathon, then ran the second 13.1 later in the day.
“It's so unclear,” she says of the rules. “I had a few people reach out and say, ‘It didn't count.’ It's one of those things where you want to do things by the book, but the record wasn't really the first priority. I was just curious to see if I'd be able to do this.”
With her prosthetic, Hunt-Broersma has an extra challenge most runners do not face.
She often opts to complete her daily marathon on the treadmill. “That’s because the tread and stuff wears quite a lot outside. And it's quite tricky to have the tread replaced. So it's just from a time point of view, that saved my blade a little bit. I find the treadmill is also a little bit softer on my stump.”
Inspiring one step at a time
Record or no record, one thing is clear: Hunt-Broersma is inspiring. Her daily social media updates are growing a fanbase. And she’s serving as a wonderful role model for women runners, aspiring young female athletes and those who have disabilities.
“It's been incredible just to see the response,” she says. “It's just been phenomenal, just the outpouring. I've always got that in my back of my head. I can't quit now."
Strangers have thanked her for motivating them to run longer, or helping them persevere through a tough race. And Hunt-Broersma points to one connection whose story has stuck with her.
“She hadn't run for a very long time,” Hunt-Broersma recalls, explaining the woman was diagnosed with lupus. “And she's been watching what I'm doing. She says I've given her hope because they've changed her medication. And for the first time she had the courage to get onto a treadmill and just do a little bit of running. I think she did a mile. And she was like, ‘This is the first time I've run years. And it's just because you just keep at and it's has given me so much hope.’ That is just incredible."
As Hunt-Broersma nears her finish line, I ask her what she has learned most about herself.
“I can do really hard things,” she says. “I know it sounds like a cliche, but I've surprised myself with the mental strength that's come through. It's weird. And it's just how strong your body can be, because it's every day you get up and you do the same thing. You have to tell yourself, ‘We're going to do it.’ But you're tired. There's an element where you get used to the soreness, because it's a constant. And your muscles are tired."
She also applies patience. Once her muscles warm up, she starts feeling more into it. In no time, she has completed yet another marathon.
“That part has really surprised me,” she admits. “Going into this, I didn't know what to expect. And I was like, "Oh, man. Are the wheels going to come off at 10? And is that going to be it? Is my body just going to fall apart?" And it's just, my body's held up really well. And it just gets on with it. And it's just amazing.”
At some point — 100, 102, 104 or more — her streak will conclude. That, of course, brings up the question: Are you going to miss it?
“That's the big worry I have because I probably will,” she says. “I'll be OK for maybe one or two days. And then I think I'm going to wonder, ‘What am I going to do now? I've told myself I'm going to give myself a week of break and then I'm just going to get back into training for Moab. So I've got my next goal. For now, I’m going to just keep working at it because I've been doing it for so long now it's just become part of the routine. I think I will miss it.”