Totally deaf, blind
Aylmer runner Gaston Bedard competes on world stage
As a competitive runner, nothing can stop 62 year-old Gaston Bedard—not even complete blindness and deafness. The Boston Marathon, April 20, will be his 16th full marathon since running his first in 1979. Mr. Bedard will be competing with “Team With a Vision”, a group of blind and sighted athletes who run the Boston Marathon every year to raise funds and awareness for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The group’s mission? To prove that with good support, people with disabilities can do anything.
Third from left is Aylmer runner Gaston Bedard during a recent Ottawa Marathon. Photo: Archives
A retired elementary school teacher, Mr. Bedard has severe hearing loss and is totally blind, having suffered Usher syndrome with retinitis pigmentosa since childhood. He caught the running bug in the excitement of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, bought a pair of $4 running shoes at a bargain store, and began, eventually completing 15 marathons and numerous road races.
He interrupted competitive running for a decade of career and family obligations, and because his worsening vision made running alone in large road races very difficult. In 2008, he enlisted the help of Ken Clement, owner of Aylmer’s Florida Fitness, to get back on the fitness track. Despite his dreams of making a road-racing comeback, he was now nearly completely blind. He has to remove his two hearing aids when he runs, leaving him completely deaf.
Through plenty of creative thinking, he invented a tubing tether and found sighted guides, Christopher Yule and Melany Gauvin, who accompany him on his runs. In Boston, his son Marc will act as his “social facilitator”—his eyes and ears; Mr Yule and Ms Gauvin will run beside him. Mr. Bedard appreciates all this support, commenting, “When you have good people around you, it is amazing what you can do.”
The Massachusetts Association has fielded “Team With A Vision” in the Boston Marathon for 22 years, and the 119th running of this historical contest will feature many world-class athletes who compete on the global level, despite visual impairment. This year’s diverse team has runners from the U.S., Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong.