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Jacky Hunt-Boersma doesn’t back down from a challenge.
Hunt-Broersma, 46 who lives and trains in Gilbert, AZ, wasn’t always into running. In fact, she used to hate it. After losing her leg to cancer at age 26, and even a decade later, she still hated it. But, something happened five years ago when Hunt-Broersma laced up a pair of running shoes, and gave the sport another try. First, she ran a local 5k. Then, she graduated to half marathons, marathons, eventually getting into ultramarathons and eventually becoming the first amputee to run 100 miles on a treadmill (in mind-bogglingly strong 23:38:44!).
Hunt-Broersma’s true passion is out on the trails, where she has learned to put her trust in a mechanical device, her prosthetic leg (which is specifically designed for the rigors associated with rough and tumble terrain, complete with a lugged rubber blade like a trail running shoe) that doesn’t give her sensitive feedback about her position. The more she’s learned to trust her training, herself, and her prosthetic, the more she’s embraced going the distance on technical terrain.
Her next challenge? Tackling the Moab 240, a 240-mile endurance run that circumnavigates the La Sal mountains and deserts of Moab (located on ancestral Ute land). Follow along as Hunt-Broersma trains to tackle one of ultrarunning’s toughest challenges.
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When did you get into running?
Five years ago, I decided I would give running a go. I wasn’t a runner at all before my amputation and to make things even more complicated, I decided to run ultra-marathons and trail races on a blade.
It has been an incredible journey and running has taught me that I am stronger than I ever imagined. My only regret is that I didn’t start running sooner!
At first, I found running on the road mentally challenging. I gave trail running a go (after I was told that an amputee can’t run trails) and I fell in love with it. I love it that you are constantly thinking about your step, you see amazing places that only a few people will ever see. You see, hear and smell the world totally differently (especially after you haven’t taken a shower for 24 hours). Naturally, Ultra distances followed very soon.
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What’s your favorite distance to race?
My favorite distance is 50 miles and my longest run so far is 100 miles. I also did a crazy thing and ran 100 miles on a treadmill under 24 hours, making me the first amputee to ever do this. I think I have become addicted to pushing my limits and pushing my body further and further. To really top the limits, I decided to take on the MOAB 240 miler in October. Yes, that sounds like a totally crazy thing to do, but I am looking at it as one heck of an adventure. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a few articles about my training leading up to the MOAB 240 for Trail running magazine. I really hope that by writing this that I will convince a few more runners to take on this distance and push themselves further than they ever thought possible. If I can do it, then anyone can.
If you have not heard of the MOAB 240, it’s a 240 mile (to be precise 240.3miles) race through the Moab dessert in Utah with 29,467ft ascent. A lot of people ask if it is a stage race because of the crazy distance, but no, it’s not a stage race or a relay. It’s a solo race and you have 112 hours to get yourself to the finish line. You can have pacers from mile 71 if you want. If you break it down then it works out to 60 miles a day and that will include your sleeping and eating breaks. Yes, you eat as you go and sometimes you sleep on the trails.
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Why the Moab 240?
I’m not looking at MOAB as a race but as an experience of a lifetime. I followed the race last year and I was in total awe of the runners finishing the race and it was such a variety of runners. You had your top elite runners, but then you also had runners of all ages and abilities finish the race, some even without any crew. These runners were just doing their thing and enjoying the trails. This made me decide that I needed to give it a shot this year. My attitude is that you only live once so you might as well make it one crazy adventure and what I love about these races are that anyone can finish it. You don’t have to be a top elite runner and at the end of the day the time on the clock isn’t a factor at all for runners like me. It’s crossing that finish line that counts.