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Persistence. Endurance. And a whole lot of buffalo wings.
That’s what Jacky Hunt-Broersma, 46, of Gilbert, Arizona, says it’s going to take for her to conquer the world record for most consecutive marathons. Every day for the last 102 days Hunt-Broersma has run a marathon (26.2 miles). The current record is 95 marathons in 95 days, held by Alyssa Clark.
Half a decade ago, Hunt-Broersma lost the bottom half of her left leg to cancer, and a couple years after that, she took up running. Now, she’s a multi-time ultramarathon finisher who’s racked up several hundred-mile finishes, with her eyes set on a finish at the Moab 240. Her marathon world record attempt doubles as high-volume training for a 200+ mile race, covering 2,620 miles in just over three months.
“I’ve always been the kind of person who just kind of goes for it,” says Hunt-Broersma, who is a mother of two in addition to being a pro athlete. “One of the things I learned from losing my leg to cancer is that you have to appreciate what you have because you don’t know what’s around the corner. So, this is me living life to the full, and giving it a go.”
Marathon After Marathon
Hunt-Broersma wakes up at 6 a.m., pours herself a cup of coffee and shares breakfast with her son and daughter (ages nine and 11) before getting them to school. Then, she runs a marathon. She has been alternating between suburban loops around her house for easy access to water and fuel, and miles on her treadmill to minimize the impact of so many repeated marathons.
“I feel like the treadmill is so much easier on my body, and when I’m doing loops, it helps me break down the task mentally, as well as not worry about fueling as much. I can just focus on the running,” says Hunt-Broersma.
She eases into the miles, mentally approaching one at a time. Each marathon takes her around five to six hours. She says her body has been holding up to the volume surprisingly well.
“Beyond a bit of soreness in my stump, I feel great!” she says. “It’s truly amazing what the human body can do.”
For Hunt-Broersma, the world record attempt is about something much larger than herself. As a part of her challenge, she is raising money for Amputee Blade Runners, an organization that helps lower the cost of prosthetics for athletes. Prosthetics are expensive, and many running blades, like the one Hunt-Broersma uses, aren’t covered by insurance because they’re seen as a luxury item. A single blade (and many athletes will require more than one) can cost up to $20,000.
Run, Recover, Repeat
Hunt-Broersma takes extra care of her body after each day’s marathon, particularly the stump of her left leg. One of her prosthetics features a wider socket to accommodate any swelling from the increase in volume.
While her typical weekly volume is in the 50-70 mile range, she’s been extra vigilant to address any niggles or soreness that pop up, foam rolling and stretching religiously.
“Typically, I’m not that great at the small stuff, like rolling out and rehab and recovery,” she says. “But this experience has taught me to be really strict about it, and helped me address any small thing that pops up before it becomes a big thing. Usually I might let that stuff work itself out, but not with a world record on the line.”
She’s also been careful to eat enough food and get in enough fluids. Running a marathon every day makes fueling a near full-time gig. She keeps plenty of snacks on hand and makes time in between school drop-offs and laundry (“You wouldn’t believe how much laundry this is making.”) to refuel and rehydrate.
Hunt-Broersma has been relying on a mix of Spring energy gels and other snacks to keep things interesting and make sure she doesn’t tire of eating the same gels day after day. After each day’s run, Hunt-Broersma says it’s a race to eat as much as possible.
“I am super relaxed about what I’ve been eating, and sometimes it feels like I want to eat everything in the house,” says Hunt-Broersma. “I trust my body knows what it wants, and if it wants something, it’s going to get plenty of it. This experience has taught me to really listen to and trust my body.”
Lately, she’s been craving buffalo wings, and lots of them. “I really trust my body on that,” says Hunt-Broersma. “Even though I’ve never craved them before,” she says with a laugh.
The Moab 240 is a big motivator for Hunt-Broersma, who DNF’d the race last year. This October she’ll be back and looking for revenge. She’s specifically targeted mental preparation as an area for growth, something she’s been sure to work on during her marathon record attempt.
Some days have felt effortless for Hunt-Broersma, and some, less so.
“I’ve had days where I had to stop five miles in, sit down, and give myself a pep-talk,” says Hunt-Broersma. “I’ve done that in an ultra before, where you just have to sit down and pull yourself together. And you have to learn how to work through those low moments, because the next day, or the next mile could feel amazing.”
The emotional roller coaster of the record attempt has been a great way for Hunt-Broersma to hone her mental endurance. Just when she thinks she might not be able to run another mile –much less another marathon– she pulls herself together and gets it done.
“It’s teaching me that we can push our bodies and our minds so much further if we just give it a shot,” says Hunt-Broersma. “We all have that inner dialogue that says ‘oh no, I can’t do it’ or ‘this is just too difficult’ or ‘this is impossible’ but this is teaching me that every day, I can work past those ideas, and I’m getting stronger. You just adapt, and you just keep going.”
Hunt-Broersma has been determined to bring others along for the ride as well, sharing daily updates on her Twitter and Instagram. “I’d rather live my life trying than not have tried at all,” she says. “That’s just who I am. I’m always going to give it a shot. Yes. I might fail. Yes. I might get injured. But at least I know I’ve given it my best, and I had fun along the way.”
She says it’s scary to document her attempt in real time, but she believes it’s important to share how she’s feeling, and make herself vulnerable. For Hunt-Broersma, her attempt has already been successful because she’s been able to run some quality, high-volume training weeks, and learn about herself along the way.
“I’ve learned that I’m capable of far more than I thought. For me, this is already successful because of the fact that I’ve come so far,” says Hunt-Broersma.
Hunt-Broersma hopes her world record attempt, and sharing her journey will inspire others to try something hard as well, whether it’s a world record, a PR or running their first 5k.
“For me, life is all about taking risk, and helping others live to the fullest.”