GILBERT, Ariz. — As Forrest Gump in the Oscar-winning 1994 film of the same name, lead actor Tom Hanks abruptly trots to a halt after more than three years of nonstop running and tells his followers: “I’m pretty tired — I think I’ll go home now.”
Jacky Hunt-Broersma can relate. On Thursday, the amputee athlete achieved her goal of running 102 marathons in as many days, setting an unofficial women’s world record.
And she can't stop/won't stop, saying she'll run two more for good measure and wrap up her challenge on Saturday with 104. “I might as well end April with a marathon,” she told The Associated Press.
Britain-based Guinness World Records did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. It can take up to a year for the organization to ratify a world record.
Guinness lists the men's record for consecutive daily marathons as 59, set in 2019 by Enzo Caporaso of Italy.
“I’m just happy that I made it — I can’t believe it,” she said. “The best thing was the incredible support I’ve received from people around the world who’ve reached out, telling me how this has inspired them to push themselves.”
Hunt-Broersma, 46, began her quest on Jan. 17, covering the classic 26.2-mile marathon distance on a loop course laid out near her home in Gilbert, Arizona, or on a treadmill indoors. Since then, it's been “rinse and repeat” every day for the South Africa native, who lost her left leg below the knee to a rare cancer and runs on a carbon-fiber prosthesis.
Her original goal was to run 100 marathons in 100 days so she'd beat the record of 95 set in 2020 by Alyssa Amos Clark, a nondisabled runner from Bennington, Vermont, who took it on as a pandemic coping strategy. But earlier this month, after nondisabled British runner Kate Jayden unofficially broke Clark's record with 101 marathons in 101 days, Hunt-Broersma realized she'd need to run at least 102.
On foot, day in and day out, she's covered 2,672 miles — the equivalent of running from her Phoenix suburb to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, or from New York City to Mexico City.
Along the way, Hunt-Broersma gained a huge social media following and raised nearly $27,000 to help fellow amputee blade runners get the expensive prostheses they need. Health insurance typically doesn't cover the cost, which can exceed $10,000.
Hunt-Broersma, who ran her 92nd at this month's Boston Marathon, hopes her quest will inspire people everywhere to push themselves to do hard things.
“Running really changed my life,” she said earlier this month. “It helped me accept myself as an amputee. It gave me a sense of freedom. I fell in love with the process of pushing my body further just to see what I could do.”
In 2001, Hunt-Broersma was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer more typically seen in children. Overnight, a golf ball-sized bulge appeared on an old scar that had become tender. A biopsy confirmed the worst, and within weeks, her leg was amputated below the knee.
“The biggest struggle was accepting that part of my body was gone,” she said. (She's since made peace with that: A favorite T-shirt reads, “A Zombie Chewed It Off.”)
What's next for the endurance athlete? A 240-mile ultra race to be staged over mountainous terrain in October in Moab, Utah. First, though, she wrote on Instagram that she's looking forward to a rest day on Sunday.
Val Lick contributed to this report.