Kerri Kanuga: ' . . . miles to go before she sleeps'

Move over Marathon Man, here comes Cayman’s “Iron Woman.”

This weekend, local realtor (and ultra-distance athlete) Kerri Kanuga is celebrating her birthday with a 6-mile swim, followed by a 106-mile run, while raising funds for a most worthy cause.

The preceding figures aren’t typos: Ms. Kanuga plans to swim from Starfish Point in North Side to Barkers Beach in West Bay, then run from Barkers to Starfish Point . . . and then run back. (That’s right; the “Ker-a thon” is of such tremendous length that Ms. Kanuga has to traverse Grand Cayman twice to accomplish it.)

All told, the running distance alone is equivalent to four marathons!

That most worthy cause we mentioned? It’s the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for pediatric cancer research. The money that Ms. Kanuga raises will go into the foundation’s “Heroes for Hannah” fund, which was established two years ago to honor 7-year-old Cayman Islands resident Hannah Meeson and other young cancer survivors in our country, including Skylar “Mimi” Ebanks, Tayden Grant, Beau Shields, Annabel Reading and Charlie Foster.

While Ms. Kanuga’s intended feat certainly qualifies as Herculean, and is inspirational in its own right, she says her athletic trials are nothing compared to the tribulations these children face each day in their personal battles to overcome this disease.

“I know that if I experience discomfort when I train, I can simply stop. These kids are not given that luxury, and it breaks my heart that they have to go through this,” Ms. Kanuga said.

Ms. Kanuga’s charitable endeavor follows “on the heels,” so to speak, of retired police officer and active marathoner Derek Haines’s ultimately successful $1 million campaign for Cayman HospiceCare. Last year, Mr. Haines ran six marathons in different locations around the globe over a period of eight months, raising more than $1.1 million to build a new facility for the organization on land donated by the Dart Group.

While Ms. Kanuga’s fundraising goals are more modest than Mr. Haines’s, her cause is equally deserving.

Consider her itinerary: At approximately 8 a.m. Saturday, a 44-year-old Ms. Kanuga will step into the waters of North Sound and swim the 6 miles from Starfish Point to Barkers — an aquatic distance a half-dozen times longer than the annual Flowers Sea Swim — setting foot on dry land around four hours later, at noon.

For most people, this first leg alone would necessitate a session with a physical therapist, a visit to the emergency room or a trip on the police helicopter after being fished out of the water. But for Ms. Kanuga, that’s just her warm up.

From there, she’ll strap on her shoes and run down the Seven Mile Beach corridor, past George Town, Bodden Town, East End and North Side, until arriving back at Starfish Point. Then she’ll turn around and retrace her steps back, hopefully returning to Barkers on Sunday afternoon in time to celebrate her accomplishment with some ice cream, as a newly minted, but probably exhausted, 45-year-old.

Other than her internal motivations, Ms. Kanuga will have some serious external support along the way. Swimming coordinator Brenda Anderson will kayak alongside Ms. Kanuga in the water (as she did for ultra-swimmer Diana Nyad during her Cuba-Key West swim in 2013), and coach Lisa Smith-Batchen (whom Ms. Kanuga witnessed run an unfathomable 584 miles, with elevation varying nearly 14,800 feet) will accompany her on land.

We at the Compass aren’t fit, or foolhardy, enough to try to follow in Ms. Kanuga’s footsteps this weekend; however, we will have journalists strategically stationed to report on, and photograph, her astounding attempt.

While we mere mortals must respect our physical limits, our hearts and minds will be with Ms. Kanuga, and the children she is honoring, every step (and swimming stroke) of the way.

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