“Once you push those boundaries of what’s possible, they keep expanding.” – Norma Bastidas
In 2014, Norma Bastidas, ultra athlete and single mother broke the Guinness World Record for Longest Triathlon after swimming, biking and running 3,762 miles (6,054 km) from Cancún, Mexico to Washington, D.C. Prior to that, in 2009, Norma became the fastest female in history to run seven of the planet’s most unforgiving environments on seven separate continents in seven months. That in itself is remarkable but as a single mother, and a survivor of poverty, kidnapping, sexual violence and human trafficking, Norma’s story is extraordinary.
Norma views athletic feats as metaphors for the incredible trials faced every day by the survivors of sexual violence and for those people who are visually impaired. Norma’s mission is to educate and empower, demonstrating to the world that one’s past does not dictate one’s future, and prove that everyday people are capable of making extraordinary strides in the fight against the problems facing the world today.
Norma believes her work will show her children that we can all have a positive impact on other people’s lives and change the world around them.
- Show Notes
- [02:06] Patrick lets us in on a little background to his next interview: a stretch for him outside the typical TEDM conversation towards a topic he felt compelled to shine a light on.
- [02:43] An introduction to Patrick’s next guest: Norma Bastidas
- [04:42] Norma and Patrick get their conversation underway. Norma challenges the traditional view of success to broaden that definition.
- [05:57] Norma shares what she does, what she stands for and why. She is still waking up with new dreams and passions.
- [08:39] Patrick shares a bit about how Norma came to be on The Everyday Millionaire.
- [09:21] Norma briefly recounts her story of where she has come from in Mexico to how she came to Canada.
- [11:40] Norma describes the betrayal that resulted in her being trafficked to Japan at 19 after escaping a kidnapping in Mexico when she was 17 years old.
- [13:36] Expanding on the story of her kidnapping, Norma talks about the trauma it left her with and the fearsome reality of the hometown she returned to after her rescue. Personal safety was like playing Russian roulette daily.
- [17:45] Limited options, desperation, and naivete at such a young age understandably obstructed Norma’s ability to recognize the deception being presented to her as a modeling job in Japan.
- [19:28] Norma details the journey of being courted to escape Mexico. Promises of moving from her current circumstances of working in a gym and on television to modeling and greeting the wealthy in a Studio 54 style environment reveals itself as human trafficking and another kind of prison.
- [25:42] Norma talks about her experience to shine a light on human trafficking, what it really is and how it most often looks.
- [27:52] Even though it may look a little different, Norma talks about how this imprisonment shows up for indigenous women in Canada.
- [29:45] Norma wants to help people understand whether or not a person makes an unknowing choice as she did, whether it’s legal or illegal, trafficking is still exploitation. She urges those who make the choice of engaging in prostitution to make it an empowered choice.
- [33:29] The story behind why Norma became a marathon runner. The difficult path of dealing with her son’s cone-rod dystrophy diagnosis and how she coped with these significant challenges in a healthier way than vodka.
- [37:32] An invitation from a friend to qualify for the Boston Marathon was all Norma needed to commit. During the helpless time of her son’s recovery, Norma found something she could be in control of.
- [38:26] After completing the Boston Marathon, Norma was fascinated with how she could further expand her limits and potential but closer to home this time. Enter the Canadian Death Race and her life’s passion.
- [40:15] Norma explains how she tied together her passion to expand her limits with activism for her son’s eye disorder. Her blog updates for supporters became a global source of support for others.
- [44:32] Norma circles back to the need for redefining success in a way that celebrates courage and an affirmative approach to life.
- [46:16] Patrick furthers Norma’s assertion by aligning success with the show’s purpose: seemingly ordinary people, achieving extraordinary results. Whatever that is for his guests.
- [47:25] Norma speaks to comparison and what she calls the pornification of sports.
- [51:55] Norma and Patrick discuss fit vs. healthy and healthy vs. physical appearance. Things aren’t always as they appear.
- [55:19] Expanding her “why” from a positive outlet and supporting her son, Norma’s love of competition and running is also a platform to advocate for violence against women and children.
- [59:54] From victim to champion, Norma advocates publicly to amplify the power of positive messaging.
- [60:52] The perception of circumstances in Norma’s life, from the violence she experienced to what a Mom is “supposed to be”, can still elicit shame (aka fear) but she consistently and persistently works to stay true to herself.
- [64:35] What guidance would Norma give to women who have experienced violence and are holding on to their secret and to the shame?
- [67:08] Upon reflection Norma sees how sharing her secret and her story liberated her from victim to unapologetic survivor. It has been a long and challenging journey but understands the positive impact.
- [71:57] From talking about her story in a church basement of survivors to being invited to speak to the UN, Norma absolutely feels she is making a difference.
- [74:38] Norma reminds us of how #metoo was intended; a way to let other women know who have been victims of violence that they are not alone, not a movement designed to hold men accountable. The benefit of it has certainly been more awareness and action.
- [79:14] Norma shares a personal story after coming to Canada, graduating from University with honours and how sexual harassment still showed up for her, only it was in the workplace and regarded as something to simply be accepted.
- [81:31] Patrick poses this question to Norma: do women ever get pissed off at other women who act a certain way to “fit in” or get a promotion or show up as flirtatious? Norma feels, it’s all about consent and making the choice to authentically show up as you.
- [86:12] What is Norma’s mindset when she is running the long distances she does? What tools does she use?
- [88:55] Norma shares how she makes a living, and the projects she undertakes to keep doing what she loves.
- [92:06] Norma explains why she hasn’t expanded her reach with big sponsorships and funding.
- [96:12] Norma’s focus on healing, self-care and recognizing her emotions have brought her to where she is now. It’s still a journey but her strength and resolve keep her moving forward. Fear is not danger.
- [100:43] A rich conversation surrounding this quote: “You are not your circumstances. Your current situation is where you are, not who you are. It might be a long journey, but if you keep persisting you will get to the place you deserve to be.”
- [102:45] What is Norma reading these days?
- [104:11] Norma shares where her son’s eyesight is at now and his remarkable achievement in education with his seeing eye dog by his side.
- [106:29] Rapid fire on the rails: favourite inspirational quotes; room-desk-car; favourite swear word (she uses as a comma); what she’s not very good at but keeps doing; favourite program series; messages at the pearly gates.
- [109:36] Norma’s gratitude.
Connect with Norma Bastidas:
Selected Links and People Mentioned from this episode:
Highway of Tears: Preventing Violence Against Women
The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry