Kerri Kanuga has big plans for her 50th birthday. On 29 Feb., in addition to swimming six miles from Barkers to Starfish Point, she will run 53 miles back to Barkers, and then, for good measure, make the return trip on the road to Starfish Point, covering a total of 112 miles in the water and on land.
In addition to completing the impressive physical feat on Leap Day, Kanuga is raising money for charity, splitting the proceeds between the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research, and local animal rescue group, Canine Friends.
This is not the first time Kanuga has covered this distance. On her 45th birthday, she completed the identical swim and run, and raised US$38,000 in the process.
“I did this five years ago and I thought it is time to do it again,” said Kanuga. “I’m going to swim from Starfish Point to Barkers, if the weather permits, fingers crossed.”
The once full-time swimmer has transitioned into running, competing in extreme events across the globe. When she’s home, though, she said it is only fitting she takes to Cayman’s waters.
“I do miss swimming,” Kanuga said. “That’s the reason I wanted to make it a part of this event again. I was just beating myself up too much, so I had to let one go a little bit. I’ve accomplished a lot of pretty cool things from swimming. I’ve swum between the Brac and Little Cayman; I was in the water for about 12 hours. I think it was about 10 miles, maybe a little bit more.”
Kanuga has also competed in marathons, aquathlons, and triathlons, and said these races have taken their toll on her body.
“Your body just breaks,” she said. “I’ve had broken bones in my feet. I haven’t had a toenail for quite some time, but it’s just continuous training and the body just gets stronger. “The more you train the stronger you get, and I think I’ll do better than I did five years ago on this challenge.”
She added a safety crew will be on hand throughout her 112-mile journey. “During the swim, I’ve got one of my friends coming from Florida, she’s a kayaker – Brenda Anderson,” said Kanuga. “I’m hoping that she’s going to be able to get the kayak in the water and get me through. I think they said they saw a 10-foot tiger shark the other day in the sound, so I’m going to have some company in there. But hopefully she’ll have a big paddle just in case it comes after me,” she said, jokingly.
“But in all seriousness, I think she’ll be a good help for me. I have Captain Anderson with his boat as far as a safety crew in case we really need to get out of there in an emergency. My brother is coming from Canada. He’s going to help me at night and give me all the supplies that I may need on the road.”
“It’s the fifth time in a row that I’ll be doing it,” said Kanuga. “They have made it very difficult for people who have completed the race to get in again, so I am truly honoured and blessed to be one of the hundred spaces. “They have only allowed 25 people who have run the race before to run this year and, of course, for females it’s even slimmer than that so I’m very lucky. It shows women can compete at the same level as men.”