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Set your sights on a goal, blind runner says

Motivational talk will help people keep up their training

Running a marathon is tough enough but you can achieve anything if you make a goal and keep working toward it.

That’s the philosophy you’ll hear this weekend from Diane Bergeron who only picked up running for exercise and competition, along with other challenges and daredevilry relatively recently in her life.

“I started running at 47 and then the next thing you know, I'm doing a triathlon and the next thing you know, my friend said, ‘I think you can do a half Ironman.’ So I did that and then I said, ‘I want to do an Ironman’,” the former Edmontonian now living in Ottawa said.

That’s another accomplishment to check off of the 54-year-old's list, which also includes skydiving, driving a racecar, and rappelling down the side of a building. It’s a pretty impressive résumé.

“In five years, I went from couch potato to Ironman.”

That’s not bad, especially when you consider that she is totally blind and must compete with the assistance of a guide. For the bicycling portion of the triathlon, they ride a tandem bike for instance. The Ironman does take account of her blindness and special requirements but don’t cut her any slack otherwise.

“With Ironman it doesn't matter if you have a disability or if you don't. Everybody has to do the exact same race and you have the same 17 hours to complete it,” she noted.

“It's a four-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike, and then a full 42-kilometre marathon. You have to complete the whole thing in 17 hours. If you're a second late, you don't get nothing. You didn't qualify. So whether you have a disability or not, it makes no difference.”

Such competitions do make accommodations with what they call a physically challenged category, which incorporates anybody of any age or gender who has any disability. That means that she could be competing against athletes who have amputations or those who require a wheelchair, among other qualifications.

That’s it though. Otherwise, the competitors aren’t given any extra special treatment.

“They don't make any accommodation when it comes to extra time. You're on the same course as everybody else. There's no special treatment in that sense. They typically do give us a little bit of extra space in transition zones because our equipment – the tandem bike, as you can imagine – is quite long. So to avoid any collision or any issues with other cyclists, trying to get their bikes at a transition, we typically have our own transition area that's just a little bit bigger. That's more of a safety feature but other than that everything is exactly the same.”

Bergeron, who works as the vice-president of engagement and international affairs for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, was part of the only all-blind relay team to run and complete the Canadian Death Race. It sounds like she has some pretty strong goal-setting skills.

She will be coming to the Running Room at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday to offer a motivational talk through her side business called Blind Iron Vision. Bergeron said that her talk on goal setting would help people to be motivated to keep up their training and start tracking their successes.

“The Running Room is really well known from taking people from basically the couch potato to the 5k, getting their goals met, whether it's marathons or whatever it is they want to do. This is really an opportunity for me to talk to people to let them know that it doesn't matter what your circumstances – if you have a disability or if you're starting at a later age – really all you need to do is set your sights on a goal and you can make it happen.”

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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