Son's diagnosis spurs mother on to run for blind charity

By Peter Thornton

Norma Bastidas has run 1272km in seven months. Photo / Stuart Gradon
Norma Bastidas has run 1272km in seven months. Photo / Stuart Gradon

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." - Albert Pine

In 2006 Norma Bastidas' oldest son Karl was diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy, a progressive condition with no cure that could make him go blind.

The diagnosis was too much for an already struggling single parent of two boys to take. Bastidas was unable to sleep and she started to go for a run every morning.

"With every run I started to feel more hopeful," said the 45-year-old Mexican who now lives in Vancouver.

Bastidas stumbled upon a race near her house. It was a 78-mile (125km) race named the Canadian Death Race and when she signed up to run it, and asked her friends to pledge for every mile she finished, she had run only one marathon in her life. It was two weeks before the race.

She didn't finish the race as she was forced to pull out because of hypothermia. It was in that moment she was hooked to the running buzz.

"There was something amazing about it. I made it to 56 miles, teaching me that fear had held me back significantly. What else could I do if I gave myself the opportunity? It was a real turning point in my life and an amazing source of stress relief from all the hard times."

Bastidas went on to complete an incredible running journey that beggars belief. She became the fastest female in history to run in seven of the planet's most unforgiving environments.

Bastidas ran through the jungles of Brazil and the driest deserts in the world all in support of the blind and visually impaired. She finished her seventh race in Switzerland on July 11, 2009 and had run 1272km in seven months. It was an effort that saw her raise US$150,000 ($177,000) and tell her story on Oprah.

She is now an ambassador for her son and the millions of people around the world living with visual impairments.

Her story is one of many Extraordinary Moms from around the world which premieres on New Zealand television on Vibe tomorrow night to celebrate Mother's Day.

Her ultra-marathon running career started with "a simple desire to do something about my son's diagnoses that was positive".

She saw the experience as a metaphor for the incredible trials faced every day by the visually impaired.

Bastidas has kept on running and will for as long as she can.

"If you had asked me a few years ago what was my quest about I would have said that it was to fight blindness, now I realise that I am here to show my kids to live life with passion."

Bastidas simply calls herself "a mother who would go to the end of the world and back for her children". She already has.

"It is your life. You are not what happens to you. I can't do anything about what happens to me, I can only choose what I do about it."

Extraordinary Moms: New Zealand Premiere

When: Tomorrow, 8.30pm
Where: Vibe Channel

- NZ Herald

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