Kerri Kanuga going the distance to fight childhood cancer

| 19/05/2016 | 0 Comments
CNS Local Life

Kerri Kanuga with Hannah Meeson at the 2015 “Ker-a-thon”

(CNS): Ultra-long-distance runner Kerri Kanuga is back on the fundraising trail this summer on behalf of the St Baldrick’s Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. She will kick off her efforts on 21 May with the Keys100 ultra-marathon, a 100-mile race starting in Key Largo and finishing at Higgs Beach on the Atlantic Ocean in Key West. Kerri was 10th woman overall in last year’s Keys100 race with a time of 25:34:45. Her goal this weekend is to break 24 hours.

Though the Keys100 would be more race than most can handle, this is just a training run for Kanuga. On 18 July, she will participate in Badwater, the world’s toughest foot race, spanning three mountain ranges across 135 miles through Death Valley, the hottest place on earth during the hottest month.

To earn her place at Badwater, she had to qualify with three 100-mile race finishes which included Brazil’s “160+Ultra” in January this year where Kanuga represented the Cayman Islands and covered 250 kilometres (six marathons back to back) with an accumulated elevation of over 35,000 ft (Everest is lower at 29,028 ft).

Kanuga completed the race in 61 hours and 10 minutes, and then applied for and won a much-coveted place in the Badwater line-up. She will be one of only 100 runners, and one of only 25 women. Her crew for Badwater includes ultra marathon legend Lisa Smith-Batchen and nun, Sister Mary Beth.

“To even be considered for the world’s toughest foot race is an honour. I am astounded by the fact that I am able to complete and improve as a long-distance runner at age 46 and I have never felt stronger in my life,” Kanuga said.

“Ultra running keeps me focused on my goals. I have so much gratitude that my body can run at this level and I am very happy that my sport allows me to give back and raise money and awareness for St Baldrick’s.”

CNS Local Life

Kanuga finishing the fifth of six consecutive marathons in Brazil in January

Kanuga is running the Keys100 and Badwater to honour young Hannah Meeson who has been bravely battling Medulloblastoma since 2012. Though Hannah currently has no evidence of disease, brutal treatment has left her unable to walk unassisted and suffering from cognitive and hearing difficulties.

“Hannah is a beautiful, brave little girl who was simply given a bad hand,” Kanuga said.

“I know that if I experience discomfort when I train I can stop. These kids don’t have that luxury and it breaks my heart that they have to go through this.”

Heroes for Hannah, a hero fund of the St Baldrick’s Foundation, was established in 2013 to raise awareness of and vital funds for childhood cancer research, and to honour Hannah and other young survivors in Cayman, including Skylar “Mimi” Ebanks, Tayden Grant, Beau Shields, Annabel Reading and Charli Foster.

“St Baldrick’s is a wonderful organisation; they only fund paediatric cancer research and they do it well,” said Gaylene Meeson, Hannah’s mother. “We are delighted that Kerri has chosen our hero fund, Heroes for Hannah, as her inspiration and motivation to complete such gruelling challenges.”

Like so many others, Kanuga has been affected by cancer, losing many friends and family members, including her father in 2013. Before meeting Hannah, she knew very little about childhood cancer and was shocked by the statistics surrounding the lack of funding and research, and the debilitating side effects of current treatments for children.

Hannah and her family have inspired Kanuga to combine her passion for life and her love of endurance sports to raise much-needed funds and awareness.

Since 2014, Kanuga has raised more than $33,000 to support the Heroes for Hannah Fund to help conquer childhood cancers. In February last year, she ran the “Ker-a-thon”, spending her 45th birthday weekend swimming six miles across the North Sound before embarking on a 106-mile run around Grand Cayman, raising more than US$27,000 for childhood cancer research.

Kanuga said she hopes that her efforts will aid research into preventing the life-long damage that results from surgeries, radiation and chemotherapies given while young bodies and brains are just developing.

To support her fundraising efforts in the Keys100 and Badwater, go to www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/kerathon2016

For further information, go to the St Baldrick’s website and Heroes for Hannah Facebook page 

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Category: Community, Donations, Running

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