BOSTON “Jackie Hunt-Broersma is running away like a possessed woman.” And in a sense it is: the athlete with amputated limbs tries to run at least 102 marathons in 102 days.
Last month, just over two-thirds of her goal to set a new world record for consecutive marathons, the South African-born posted something on Twitter that made people talk.
“The first thing I did after running today was take my legs off. “I felt so good,” she tweeted. “Marathon 69 is ready. There are 31 marathons left.”
That was last month and she’s still running – running the classic 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) marathon day after day, rain or lightning, sometimes on a treadmill, but mostly on roads and trails near her home in Gilbert , Arizona. If her series remains intact for the Boston Marathon on April 18, it will be the 92 Marathon.
Unlike 30,000 others who follow the legendary route, the 46-year-old Hunt-Broersma will run a marathon the day before. Somehow she will have to unite body and soul to run another day after that. And another after that. And then eight more.
All on a carbon fiber blade, which is her left leg, since she lost the real thing below the knee from a rare cancer.
“You are coming to terms with the pain,” she told the Associated Press. “I think my pain threshold is probably quite high right now. It’s a step-by-step process. “
Boston is the only certified marathon she includes in her quest. The others she runs on one of the two loops near her home or indoors on a treadmill – a monotonous machine that many runners mockingly call the “horrible trail”.
In 2001, while she and her Dutch husband lived in the Netherlands, Hunt-Broersma was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that is more common in children. During the night, a bulge the size of a golf ball appeared on an old scar that had become tender. The biopsy confirmed the worst, and within weeks her leg was amputated below the knee.
“The biggest struggle was accepting that part of my body was gone,” she said. (Since then, she’s come to terms with it: a favorite T-shirt says, “Zombies chewed it.”)
Until five years ago, she was not athletic at all, but getting started was expensive. Carbon fiber blades designed for work cost about $ 10,000 and are not covered by health insurance. Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, which killed three spectators and injured 260 others, faced the same problem as they tried to rebuild their lives.
“Running really changed my life,” she said. “It helped me accept myself as amputated. This gave me a sense of freedom. I fell in love with the process of pushing my body further, just to see what I could do. ”
Subsequent marathons led to over-running long distances, including a 100-mile (160-kilometer) race. So when Hunt-Broersma learned that Alice Amos Clark, a non-disabled runner from Bennington, Vermont, ran the marathon 95 days in a row in 2000, an idea was born: she would make 100. That plan was thwarted this week when British runner Kate Jaden completed 101 marathons in so many days, so Hunt-Broersma has a new goal: “I’ll have at least 102 now.”
“I was hoping this would inspire a lot of people to step out of their comfort zone and push a little further,” she said.
She was worried that her stump would become raw and painful, and the first two weeks were rough. Since then, however, she has entered a steady rhythm, taking care of ice and stump massage. When she swelled, she switched to a running prosthesis with a little more space.
But there were also mental challenges on the way to 102, which began on January 17. During a recent trip, Hunt-Broersma – who had an average of just over five hours of marathon – felt close to collapsing 15 miles (24 kilometers)) and burst into tears. Suddenly the whole odyssey was in doubt.
“I had a complete emotional breakdown. I was like, “I just can’t do this. What was I thinking? “She said.” The trick for me is just to split it into small goals. Just get to the next mile. And then the next one. “
Her support team is her husband and their two young children, but she has also won many followers on social media.
This week, after the №85 marathon was over, well-wishers gave virtual applause. “Looks like you’re just eating marathons for breakfast,” one man tweeted. “In such dark times, thank you for being an inspiration,” said another.
As she nears the end of her epic quest, Hunt-Broersma hopes it inspires unique thought in others, regardless of their own physical challenges:
“You’re stronger than you think – and you’re capable of so much more.”
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1 woman, 1 leg, 102 marathons in 102 days
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