Cayman’s Kerri Kanuga last month completed her second STYR Labs Badwater Ultra Marathon, which covers 135 miles and three mountain ranges in Death Valley’s harshest terrain.
Kanuga completed the grueling event in 36 hours, 39 minutes and finished 6th overall female and 32nd place overall.
Through all of her extraordinary races, she has raised thousands of dollars for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which gives grants for research to find cures for childhood cancers. Kanuga has been inspired by Hannah Meeson of Cayman, one of several children in Cayman battling cancer who benefit from Kanuga’s fundraising feats.
Each year 100 of the world’s best endurance athletes are selected to run the course, and since the race officially began in 1987, only 275 people ever having done it more than once. Kanuga is already making plans for her 2018 application.
“The conditions this year have proved tough for all athletes, due to the intense heat,” a press release states. “The nighttime start means athletes are up for two consecutive nights, adding sleep deprivation to the long list of challenges.”
For Kanuga, the last 13 miles of the course, with 5,000 feet of elevation gain, felt like a death march, the press release states. “This is where she really felt punished by the challenging course and she lost her place from 3rd ranking female to her finishing position of 6th. It was this last 13 miles that also gave her the motivation for getting straight back into training.”
In April Kanuga completed the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara, where she was ranked in the top 10 females but finished 39th overall. She felt her MDS performance was hampered by incorrect training for the event, but it did prove a fantastic training ground for Badwater, the press release states.
“I found Badwater to be a much more difficult race than last year and was pleased to finish, let alone place so well. It was so much hotter this year and the rainfall during the day of the race meant there was an intense humidity level,” Kanuga said.
“One of the things that stands out most in my mind was during one of the mountain passes – it was so hot that the thick metal in the guard rails was expanding and contracting making a groaning sound, as they buckled in the heat.”
Kanuga is now focusing on her next Marathon Des Sables, but this time in Peru. She has a new coach, John Fitzgerald, and the strategy is to focus on speed and aim for a higher placement than the Sahara race in 2017. During her Badwater race, Kanuga was supported by a team of volunteers including Virginia Czarnocki (strength coach and nutritionist), Mark Webb (foot specialist) and Shawn Bearden (Ph.D. host of “Science of Ultra” podcast). The press release states, “The support team had to be capable athletes themselves to provide the right support during the race. Without this crew, the race is impossible.”
Kerri’s running has a core aim, to raise funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. To assist, visit www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/mypage/2679/2017 or go to St. Baldrick’s and search for Ker-a-thon 2017