Ultra Possibilities

Vancouver runner sets sights on Badwater Trifecta in support of the visually impaired

Norma Bastidas
Photo: Ric Rowan

Ten years ago, Norma Bastidas was your average Canadian hockey mom; working in sales and raising two young sons. When her eldest boy, Karl, then 11, was diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative eye disease, their lives changed overnight.

“As a parent it’s what you fear the most” says the 47-year-old, explaining how Karl’s sight has deteriorated over the years. “I started running as a way to deal with the stress and regain some control in life. It made me feel better.”

A decade later Bastidas has racked up an impressive record of ultra marathons and world-record breaking triathlons: all leading to this year when she hopes to complete the mother of all ultra running challenges: The Badwater Ultra Cup.

Consisting of three races, it’s a challenge totalling 237 miles across some of America’s most unforgiving landscapes. Bastidas has just one race left to complete the challenge: the famous Badwater 135 from Death Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney.

Her motivation, she says, is simple; “I want to help people suffering from avoidable blindness. I can’t cure my son, but I can help others.”

Bastidas is running Badwater for Operation Eyesight, a Calgary based charity providing blindness prevention treatment around the world.

Despite what she calls “the rotten genetics lottery” of her son’s condition, Bastidas says she and her family are “the lucky ones.”

“Living in Canada we take so much for granted, but we have the best care and medicine. Gene therapy will develop treatment for Karl’s condition within his lifetime, I know that, but while we wait we can help others whose blindness is avoidable.”

Bastidas’ passion for her cause, like her approach to running, is relentless.

“I want to show people that with passion, dedication and determination, you can live without boundaries,” she says earnestly. “I remember not long after [Karl] was diagnosed, watching Brian McKeever compete in the Winter Paralympics and saying, ‘look at him, look what he can achieve’.”

The decorated visually impaired skier proved an inspiration for the whole Bastidas family at a time when they needed it most. Karl, like his mom, also lives his life without boundaries and is currently majoring in Visual Arts.

And how will Norma Bastidas celebrate crossing the finish line of Badwater 135 at the end of July?

“Well, I’m Mexican, so probably with some tequila” she laughs, “but only if we reach our fundraising goal. That’s the real finish line for me.”