Meet the First Amputee to Run 100 Miles On a Treadmill In One Day
The coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped adaptive athlete and ultrarunner Jackie Hunt-Broersma from breaking records. The cancer survivor and mom of two recently became the first amputee to run 100 miles nonstop on a treadmill—all while quarantining at home.
Before the global pandemic forced the country into lockdown, Hunt-Broersma says she planned to run not only the Boston Marathon but also the Umstead 100, a 100-mile endurance race in Raleigh, North Carolina. Unfortunately, both events have been postponed because of COVID-19. "I was super bummed because I'd trained so hard for Umstead, and it was going to be my first 100-mile race," Hunt-Broersma tells Shape.
Eager to put her training to good use, Hunt-Broersma did some research and came across the Aravaipa Strong Virtual Race. From April 17-26, participants joined the race at a location and time of their choice, with the option of running (or walking) any distance from a 5K to 100 miles. Even better: With every entry to the virtual race, Aravaipa Running donated 10 percent of proceeds to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
"It was perfect," Hunt-Broersma says of the virtual race. "I signed up immediately and started thinking of ways to pull it off." (Check out these insane ultramarathons you have to see to believe.)
Since all the state parks near her home in North Carolina were closed due to COVID-19, Hunt-Broersma says she first decided to run the 100 miles in her neighborhood. "I found a loop that I'd have to do 200 times to cover the distance," she explains.
But she quickly realized social distancing would become a serious issue. "I knew I'd be running for about 24 hours, and with all the people out on walks every day—alone, with their dogs, and their kids—running outside just wasn't a feasible option." (Related: Should You Wear a Face Mask for Outdoor Runs During the Coronavirus Pandemic?)
That's when the idea of taking the run indoors came to mind, she says. "I did some research and learned that no amputee had ever run 100 miles on a treadmill before," she shares. "So I was like, 'What the heck, what do I have to lose?'"
For the most part, Hunt-Broersma relied on her previous marathon training to prep for her endeavor, she says. But two weeks before the virtual race, she tried the 4x4x48 challenge, which entails running four miles every four hours for 48 hours, she explains. "After that, I felt pretty prepared to step up to the task," she says.
Then, on Saturday, April 25, Hunt-Broersma got on her treadmill at 8 a.m. and started running. Even though she's a passionate, experienced ultramarathoner, Hunt-Broersma admits it didn't take long for the treadmill to feel more like the "dreadmill" during her 100-mile endeavor. (Related: The Cardio Trend That Makes Treadmill Running Way Less Boring)
"After a while, going at the same pace really starts to become really tedious," she says. "Especially at like 2 a.m., I was starting to fall asleep, so I played around with [my speed] and the incline so I didn't just wipe out."
Things really got hard after she hit the 60-mile mark, says Hunt-Broersma. "Before [doing] this, I'd only run 10 miles on a treadmill before—and 50 miles was the longest I'd ever run, period," she adds. "So, at about mile 60, I really felt my energy depleting and the thought of going another 40 miles was a bit nerve-wracking."
But her determination outweighed her nerves—and the fact that she had her own cheering squad didn't hurt either, says Hunt-Broersma. "My husband was there every step of the way rooting me on," she shares. "Two of our friends also came over at different times to cheer me on through our porch window, which was just wonderful." (Related: An Open Letter to Every Runner Who Thinks She Can't Run Long Distances)
It took Hunt-Broersma 23 hours and 38 minutes to finish the run—a time she was more than happy with, she says. "The first thing I did after finishing was rip off my shoes," she laughs. "My feet were dead."
"I was so relieved I did it, but I was also hurting," she continues. "My stump was banged up and I had a lot of bad blisters. But that's just something that comes with running that distance—and doing it on a treadmill no less." (Related: This Is the Grueling Reality of What It's Like to Run an Ultramarathon)
After completing her goal, Hunt-Broersma felt certain that she'd never run 100 miles again, she says. But the next day, she'd already begun to change her mind. "All of a sudden, it didn't sound that bad and I decided I'm still going to run the Umstead 100-miler, which has been postponed to October," she explains.
Given her impressive accomplishment, it's hard to believe that Hunt-Broersma just started running four years ago in 2016. "My husband is a runner himself and I decided to go for a run with him one day and just fell in love," she says. (Related: This Teacher Ran 100 Miles Around a Track to Help Her Students Go to College)
After that first run, Hunt-Broersma signed up for her first 5K. Later that year, she ran her first half-marathon. She's gone on to 14 half-marathons, three marathons, and five ultramarathons over the past four years, she shares.
Hunt-Broersma says her biggest motivation comes from all the times she was told "no" throughout her journey to becoming an ultrarunner. "When I started running, so many people told me that because I was an amputee, I couldn't run long distances," she explains. "I was just tired of being told that it was something I couldn't do even though in my heart I knew I could."
By proving her naysayers wrong, Broersma says she hopes to inspire people to never doubt their capabilities. "Regardless of whether you're an amputee or not, I want to empower people to think outside the box and realize that you can do anything you put your mind to," she shares. "You can get out there and push the limits. All you have to do is take that first step."