Politics & Policy

Running for LIFE

Moving forward

It seems that there is no escaping the Obamas these days, even on the Disney channel. As I was watching Phineas and Ferb with three of the fittest under-ten-year-old boys in America, there was the first lady, recommending movement and fitness. It’s certainly not a bad message. And if Michelle Obama is looking for someone to lead the training, Lieut. Col. Pat Castle would be more than happy to step up.

The first lady might not be so happy about the direction in which the colonel would lead his charges, however — he’d lose her with his group’s slogan, “For Life!” Castle, currently stationed at Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis, co-founded LIFE Runners (LIFE stands for Living In Faith Exchange) in 2008 with brother in arms Rich Reich, a chemical-research officer at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. The group’s mantra is “Keep the faith, respect life from conception to natural death, run so as to win.” Admirably marrying conviction to habit, LIFE Runners exists to “raise funds, awareness, and prayers for pro-life activities,” as Castle puts it, “while training for and racing in marathons.” On the runners’ jerseys, a simple line: “REMEMBER The Unborn Jer 1:5.” (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”)

#ad#With runners from 19 American states and countries as far away as Turkey and Kenya, LIFE Runners competes in one half or full marathon each year. The group has been represented at marathons in Chicago, the Twin Cities, and Sioux Falls. It gets its energy from its indefatigable leader; Castle is the kind of character who puts his heart and soul into every moment, as if it could be his last. What keeps him moving? “Fishes and loaves,” he tells me.

At last count, 154 runners are signed up for the next marathon, on October 15 in Kansas City, including a marathoner Catholic bishop. Those training each have a $250 fundraising goal, so that the Sioux Falls Alpha Pregnancy Center can purchase a pregnancy-help bus that will provide free sonograms in rural areas. And any money raised above the $25,000 needed for the bus will be donated to the Kansas City Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic.

As the Jeremiah quotation on their jerseys suggests, the athletic component of their mission is well matched by prayer. “Our first baby picture is a zygote,” Castle reflects. He adds, “If we don’t keep our ‘eyes fixed on Jesus,’ we labor in vain.”

LIFE Runners doubles as a self-help group. “Training for marathons requires great discipline (exercise for discipleship) and affords quiet time for prayer,” Castle explains. “The suffering times during speed workouts and long runs are potent prayers to help save the unborn.” In April, at a fundraiser for the Sioux Falls Alpha Center, he encouraged an audience of over 700 to “get rid of everything that slows us down . . . and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Part of the lifeblood of LIFE Runners is a daily meditation. An “apostolate seed,” Castle says, was planted while he and Reich were marathon training in 2006. Work separated them, but the conversations continued, and toward the end of 2007, by which time their communications were mostly by e-mail, Castle began sharing their morning conversations with some family members and friends. Before long, a blog was born. LIFE Group focuses on the Christian’s calling to live the faith and share it. It connects over 1,000 people; there is even a radio component to spread the word.

Castle sees no reason that one should lose one’s faith in the military. “The Air Force’s core values are ‘Integrity First, Service before Self, Excellence in All We Do.’ My faith is compatible with those values. My thirst for the eternal isn’t a rarity in the military,” he tells me. 

A husband and father, Castle puts energy into marriage training, too; he and his wife, Angi, lead Engaged Encounter weekends — retreats for Catholic couples preparing for marriage. “As couples grow closer to God through service/sacrifice, they also grow closer to each other,” he wrote in a May devotion. Castle’s zeal is contagious and his passion relentless. When I met him in South Bend this summer at a Vita Institute conference at Notre Dame, he had actually bought another conference participant a pair of sneakers so that he could join the group Castle had rounded up for early-morning runs.

#page#You may not run actual marathons, but Pat Castle may get you running in one way or another — more fully engaging in life, in your beliefs, in helping others be able to flourish. (Anyone can sign up for LIFE Runners devotions at www.lifegroup413.org.) Any of us, runners or not, can work harder to apply what we say we believe to our daily lives in practical ways. People who say they support life can challenge themselves to make that a daily and real activism — looking for real ways to support women and children and families, and praying as we go for our brothers and sisters in the race, on and off the track. It’s about being moving toward a culture that doesn’t have debates divorced from action, that doesn’t allow people in their pain to slip by unnoticed and unaided.

And, of course, any marathon runners who wouldn’t mind wearing a plea for the unborn on their jersey are welcome to join the running team. If you think the abortion debate is going nowhere fast, watch Castle. He may give you another impression — and he may just get you moving yet.

#ad#The first lady wouldn’t find that all bad.

As I write, the LIFE quote of the day is: “Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward.” Not a bad one for getting Washington moving forward, too.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Most Popular


Ezra Klein’s Intellectual Demagoguery

Ezra Klein wants you to know that he doesn’t think Sam Harris is a racist. “I’m not here to say you’re racist, I don’t think you are,” Klein explains in a two-hour debate with Harris on the latter’s podcast, Waking Up. “We have not called you one.” No, not at all. Klein is telling the truth ... Read More

The Scholarship/Activism Balance — A Rejoinder

The Martin Center recently published an article by sociology professor Fabio Rojas, in which he argued that professors should maintain the right balance between their teaching and scholarship on the one hand, and activism on the other. In today's article, the Center's Jay Schalin pushes back somewhat. Schalin ... Read More

The Book Comey Wanted to Write

Making the click-through worthwhile: the book James Comey had wanted to write, Facebook starts to feel useless to some writers, an infamous D.C. city councilman manages to make everything worse, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign finds its wish granted. What Did James Comey’s First Draft of A Higher ... Read More
Film & TV

Pro-Life Feminist

My paisana at the Human Life Review are hosting an event in NYC on Thursday, May 3, at the Sheen Center (18 Bleeker Street) for the airing of director Jim Hanon’s half-hour documentary, Pro-Life Feminist. After the viewing, he’ll join the trio of castmates -- Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, Aimee Murphy, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Good News for Pompeo

Looks like he's in, as he should be. https://twitter.com/TomCottonAR/status/987050849317867521 But this fight has been a hint of what life will be like for Trump if the Democrats somehow take the Senate -- they'd refuse to confirm anyone for anything. Read More