Fast enough to cycle 200 miles a day. More powerful than the demons who terrorized her childhood. Able to run 40 miles a day over multiple days in a cross-country (literally) race. Look! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… no, it’s NORMA BASTIDAS!
No kidding… Norma is a real-life Wonder Woman. An ultra-marathon runner, she has committed her life to competing in unimaginable, nearly impossible, world record-breaking events to raise awareness for causes close to her heart. One of those causes is putting an end to human trafficking. Starting March 1, 2014, Norma will embark on a triathlon of 3,500 miles from Cancun, Mexico through Mexico City, up into Laredo, Texas, through New Orleans finally landing in Washington, D.C. Her epic journey is being recognized as the world’s longest triathlon by the Guiness World Book of Records.
Norma’s feat is being filmed for a documentary by iEmpathize which will also feature “a jungle raid and rescue, USC law school’s successful liberation of a Mexican trafficking survivor jailed for a murder her trafficker committed, and the stories of everyday heroes fighting one of the greatest modern human rights violations” — human trafficking.
“Wonder Woman” begins her journey across Mexico into the United States on March 1st. To complete her trek, she will swim 90 miles, cycle 2,740 miles and run 700 miles. I asked her about her daily targets, which I can’t even begin to fathom… they are: swim 10 miles; bike 200 miles (more than the Tour de France); and run 40 miles (that’s more than a marathon a day!). Check out the teaser…
“I’m not a person that enjoys comfort,” Norma said. “The harder the challenge, the more you leave in the effort and the bigger the payoff.”
A child abuse survivor herself, Norma wanted to do something to raise awareness of the growing global human trafficking epidemic. She approached iEmpathize with the idea to shatter a world-record and thought a triathlon would be the best way to accomplish that goal. [pullquote]”I’m trying to change the perception of what a strong woman is.”[/pullquote]
“This is a predominantly male event,” she commented. “Women cannot just walk away from family and responsibilities. There are all shades of strength from completing a triathlon to overcoming being a victim of human trafficking. I’m trying to change the perception of what a strong woman is.”
Norma: The Girl
Norma is a native of Mexico and shared that her father was an alcoholic who would physically abuse her siblings. She often played mediator and was able to diffuse violent situations. “It was our normal,” she said.
Her father passed away when she was young… it was then that she became a target for sexual violence, predominantly by family members including her grandfather.
“We were told to look after him,” Norma recalled, sharing that he was blind. “For the longest time, it was the biggest secret. It started with him exposing himself, then touching me, then it moved to full-on assault.”[pullquote] “For the longest time, it was the biggest secret. It started with him exposing himself, then touching me, then it moved to full-on assault.”[/pullquote]
Norma wasn’t sure how long her grandfather sexually abused her, but remembers finally disclosing her own abuse when she heard that he was naked and masterbating in front of one of her cousins.
“No one wants to talk about it,” she said. “It’s a violent circle.”
Danger was a part of Norma’s childhood. At one point, she was kidnapped, beaten-up, thrown into a car and almost sold into trafficking, but she somehow managed to escape.
As she grew older, it was commonly “known” that she had been sexually abused. “I became undatable,” Norma stated. “Society rejected me because I was raped.”
She reflected that an intense fear carried on in her life as she later married and became a mother. She mentioned she was a target for abuse in her marriage, as well. “I was so afraid of anything,” she commented. “I was afraid to go out of the house or to even use a credit card.”
Norma: THE Wonder Woman
She eventually moved to Canada. At one point, though, she was unemployed and a single mother of two boys, one of whom, Karl, was diagnosed at age 11 with an incurable eye condition that had a strong possibility of robbing him of his sight. The diagnosis was a deep blow to Norma, who found herself struggling with worry and unable to sleep. She then began to go for a run each morning and through that, found that her outlook on her son’s diagnosis, as well as the rest of her life, totally changed. In the silence of her own footsteps, she found hope. Working with the Canadian Institute for the Blind, she was able to secure help and support for her son.
From there, she decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree in management and was inspired to participate in her first mega race, a 76-miler called “The Canadian Death Run”. She writes that she suffered from hypothermia during this race and wasn’t able to cross the finish line… but the cool news is that she did complete an impressive 56 miles of the race. It was then that Wonder Woman’s golden cuffs found their home. Since that time, Norma has completed nearly 25 marathons and ultra-marathons, as well as eight “777 Races” — 7 ultra-marathons in 7 continents in 7 months. Unbelievable!
Training for her upcoming, world-record breaking ultra race has been no small undertaking. On most days, she is training for a grueling 18-hours, completing 10-hours of high-intensity training in two workouts a day. “I try to recreate what the event will be, but only worse,” Norma said. “I have really long, terrible days where I try to do more than I will in the actual event.”
Juggling the role of mom during training can also be a challenge. Between driving the boys to school, training and doing other “mom” tasks, she remarked, “There are many nights when we just have frozen veggies and pizza.”
Norma: The Author
Inspired by her son Karl who is currently in art school now (Norma refers to her oldest son as “fearless!”) and a strong, driving desire to help others to raise awareness about child abuse and trafficking, Norma shares her childhood trauma and her journey to freedom in her book, “Running Home“.
Norma was also featured in a documentary by OWN, hosted by Actress Julia Roberts, that recognized “Extraordinary Moms”. Norma was spotlighted alongside high-profile moms such as Hilary Clinton. Following that documentary, people suggested she write her life story. “I was horrified to write a book,” Norma shared. But as with every other challenge in her life, she overcame it.
About her book, Norma explains, “I have competed in international ultramarathon races of up to 150 miles in the most unforgiving environments but my most difficult journey was the internal one. Running literally from my current home in Canada to my birthplace in Mexico was symbolic of the inner journey I had embarked. Running, no matter how long was never difficult, standing still was.” [pullquote]”Running, no matter how long was never difficult, standing still was.”[/pullquote]
Follow Norma: The World Record-Breaker
Follow Norma’s “Be Relentless” 3,500 mile triathlon from Cancun, Mexico to Washington, D.C. starting March 1 online at iEmpathize: The Race or on Twitter at @BeRelentlessMov. You can also help support Norma’s journey by making a contribution at Indiegogo: be Relentless by February 27th. Starting February 28th, visit iEmphathize to follow Norma’s progress, as well as contribute.
Excited about this epic race to raise awareness of and stop human trafficking, she says, “This is everybody’s journey… it’s everybody’s celebration.”
You go, Wonder Woman!
Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website, “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids” at gingerkadlec.comor find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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