Overcoming adversity: Jacky’s story of becoming an Ultrarunner
by Red Team Member Jacky Hunt-Broersma
Jacky is an amputee trail and ultrarunner and member of the Altra Red Team. Despite the fact that she’s only been running for 3 years, she has already worked her way from marathons to 50ks up to a 50 mile race. She has fallen in love with trail running, specifically ultradistance events.
In 2001, Jackie developed a lump in her left leg. “The lump was the size of a golf ball and my doctor immediately sent me in for a biopsy,” she recalls. The results came back showing an Ewing Sarcoma (cancerous) tumor that had attached to the nerve of her foot. If they removed the tumor, she would lose the use of her foot and be wheelchair bound, so amputation was the best solution. Jacky was devastated by the news and, at the time, it felt like her life was over. The incredibly good news was that the cancer didn’t spread --after the amputation she would be cancer-free.
Despite the setback of the leg amputation, Jacky was determined to live the best life she could as an amputee so put her head down and pressed on. She went back to work four weeks after the amputation, and she was playing squash after six weeks.
Jacky’s husband is a runner and in 2016 felt inspired to give it a try. Jacky had never been a runner before the amputation so when she told people she was going to start running they were skeptical, but others’ doubts didn’t stop her and she went on her first run. Jacky didn’t have a running blade at the time and the prosthetic she had was made for walking, but she ran a 5k race on it. She felt slow, uncomfortable and the prosthetic was heavy, so she thought 5k would the longest distance she would ever manage. She wanted to go further but felt frustrated with the leg. Soon after that first 5k, Jacky started to research prosthetics and came up with a plan to get a proper prosthetic.
When Jacky got her running blade she was pleasantly surprised; the added bounce made her feel like she was flying and gave her the confidence and opportunity to try longer races. By the end of 2016 she ran her first half marathon and soon after was running marathons. Jacky was enjoying her new found love of running on the road but wanted to push herself further so decided to give trail running a go. After being warned that trail running on a prosthetic would be difficult, or even impossible, she started with short, cautious runs. Jacky did learn that blades have no grip in the mud (kind of a problem on a rainy North Carolina day!), she also encountered the added challenge of the blades curved base which catches roots, meaning she had to be careful to pick it up high enough. Although some people told her she could not trail run with a blade, she proved that with a little adaptation, she could! And once she added some trail shoe grip to her blade she was golden.
Over the past few years, Jacky has realized that wearing good trail shoes is key. Most importantly, when her blade struggles with grip she has to rely heavily on her other foot to keep her upright. Jacky started wearing Altra and quickly realized they were the perfect shoes for her, because of the security of the level platform and footshaped toe box, as well as the excellent grip.
Becoming a trail runner as an amputee has certainly had its challenges but Jacky doesn’t let that get her down. She carries duct tape with her in case something breaks and has worked through blisters on her stump and the suction going out on her blade socket.
Jacky is excited to push her body even further in 2019. She’s already completed the Umstead 50 miler and the Uwharrie 20-mile which is considered one of the hardest races in NC, and she is running the Quest for the Crest 50k and the Trans Rockies in August this year. Her bucket list includes races such as Javelina Jundred, Yeti 100 and Western States. She looks forward to conquering these milestone races just as she conquered cancer and amputation.
Jacky’s favorite trail shoe is the Superior, she wears the Lone Peak for ultras and the Escalante on the road.