Local realtor Kerri Kanuga is pushing her body beyond the limits of human endurance.
On July 23, Ms. Kanuga will embark on her third running of the Badwater 135, a 135-mile road race that will take her through California’s Death Valley and three mountain ranges.
The temperatures in Death Valley can top 125 degrees fahrenheit, adding a climate-based challenge stacked on top of the incredible distance. Ms. Kanuga, who covered the distance in 36 hours last year and finished in sixth place among women, will be running to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity that raises funds to help find cures for children with cancer.
“Nobody really understands. I don’t think I really understand,” she said Monday of the physical challenge laid in front of her. “But I do it for charity, which takes a little bit of the crazy away.”
Ms. Kanuga’s main inspiration for the run is 11-year-old childhood cancer survivor Hannah Meeson, and she hopes to raise awareness of the plight of childhood cancer victims around the world.
A decade ago, the concept of running 135 miles would have seemed absolutely impossible for Ms. Kanuga, but she said she has learned what the human body is capable of by running ultramarathons.
“I didn’t run my first marathon until about eight years ago. When I finished, I realized I still had gas left in my tank,” she said. “I never thought I’d run a marathon, let alone anything beyond. Around the same time, I was reading running books, and I stumbled across an ultra-running book. I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ But what’s really interesting is now I’m running races with the people I used to read about.”
Ms. Kanuga, the owner of Trident Properties, has raised more than $40,000 since 2015 by her physical endeavors, which have included a 160-mile race in Brazil and a six-mile swim followed by a 106-mile run here in Cayman.
There will be another event aiding young Hannah Meeson on Friday, Sept. 28, when people will have their heads shaved to participate in Hannah’s Big Shave, raising money for St. Baldrick’s.
As Ms. Kanuga prepares for her third time running Badwater, she hopes to break the top five or even work her way to a top-three finish.
How does she measure the difference in heat between Cayman and Death Valley?
“They talk about how you have to run on the white line or your shoes will melt, and that’s not an exaggeration. You can fry an egg on it,” she said of Death Valley. “I think you can fry an egg on the road here, but I haven’t tried yet. Some of the training runs I’ve done have been extremely warm. And humidity here plays such a huge factor.
“There, at least, it sounds funny, but it’s a dry heat. It feels like somebody is taking a blow dryer and blowing it in your face, but you’re just not dripping wet. When I come home from a run some days here, it’s hard to tell whether I’ve been running or swimming.”
While she runs, Ms. Kanuga will be assisted by team members Terri Sawyer, Jared Struck and Tyson Rich, who will make sure she has supplies of water and food to make it through the race. Combatting heat exhaustion will be a factor, and so will finding the appropriate time and place to take a rest.
Ms. Kanuga said treadmills allow her to simulate the uphill portions of the run, but the downhills can be tougher to manage. She has worked her way up to 60-mile weekend runs here in Cayman while she gets ready for the race, but the ultimate challenges of Badwater will be mental as well as physical.
“There’s at least one point in the race where all I can think about is sleep,” said Ms. Kanuga. “I’ll usually be able to talk my crew into letting me lie down for 10 minutes. Once I do that, I’m recharged and ready to go again. If all you can think about is sleep, you have to sleep or you’ll make yourself crazy.”
People interested in contributing to Ms. Kanuga’s fund-raising campaign for St. Baldrick’s can visit www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/kerathon2018