After Jacky Hunt-Broersma lost her leg to cancer, the last thing she thought she’d end up doing was running ultramarathons. But with family support and the motivation to inspire others, she became addicted.
“I just wanted to inspire people,” she said. “If I could get one person to go out and do something hard or just run, even if it’s a mile, then I’m happy.”
Hunt-Broersma was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2001 after discovering a lump in her lower left leg. To remove the tumor, she decided that amputation was the best option.
It was a life-changing decision that not only left her cancer-free but also fueled an unexpected ultrarunning journey that started with the Chicago Marathon.
Born and raised in South Africa, Hunt-Broersma has traveled all around the world. But it wasn’t until she moved from the United Kingdom to her current home in Raleigh, North Carolina, 3 1/2 years ago that her running career began.
She was never a runner. In fact, she hated it. But after her amputation, she started to have a different outlook.
It was her husband who inspired her most. She would see him out at races and eventually decided to give it a try, buying her first running blade in 2016.
“When I first put the blade on, I kind of felt like I was flying,” Hunt-Broersma said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can actually do this,’ and it felt great.”
When she first started, Hunt-Broersma thought her longest distance would be 5K. But she was amazed at what she could achieve on her blade and started working on distance. After completing a half-marathon, she decided to push herself further and signed up for her first marathon — the Chicago Marathon — in 2017.
“I was glad I [signed up] because the atmosphere for a first marathon was unbelievable,” she said. “The crowd was just absolutely amazing.”
At times during the race, it got difficult for her because of the heat, but the crowd pushed her the entire way.
“I just wanted to finish, so I was just incredibly grateful that I was there and I was able to do it,” she said. “It was the best feeling in the world crossing that finish line. I still get goosebumps.”
Along with personal determination, family has been a huge motivator for Hunt-Broersma. Having two young children, 6 and 9, she wants to show them they can achieve anything they put their mind to.
“I’ve been told so many times that ‘You shouldn’t be running the distances you’re running because you’re an amputee,’ ” she said. “I’m just slowly but surely proving people wrong, and I just want my kids to see that, too.”
Since running the Chicago Marathon, Hunt-Broersma’s hunger for distance took her even further into ultrarunning. The next year, she completed her first 40-mile race and finished the Umstead 50-mile run in April.
“Chicago filled my enthusiasm, and I’ve been going further and longer,” she said. “It’s been fun to push the limits to see where my blade can take me.”
Running also has been a huge confidence builder. Before becoming a runner, Hunt-Broersma was somewhat embarrassed to be an amputee and would often hide her prosthetic.
“Running changed that,” she said. “These legs have actually carried me 50 miles, so I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m really proud.’ ”
What she wants others to take away from her story is to never quit. It’s not about what everyone else is doing but what each runner is doing for themselves. She also wants to show other amputees what they can achieve with a prosthetic, despite what anyone says.
“It’s about you — it’s your personal journey,” she said. “It’s about you doing the best you can.”
Hunt-Broersma’s ultimate goal is to run a 100-mile race next April. This year, she plans to run the Chicago Marathon again and recommends anyone running it for the first time to soak up the atmosphere.
“Enjoy every single minute of it, because you’ll never forget your first marathon,” she said.