Life Runners run with purpose, expand in Omaha
It was a misty 55 degrees in late August 2006, a perfect day for a race. Pat Castle had one goal: ascend Pikes Peak in three hours.
As Castle – who later co-founded Living In Faith Exchange (LIFE) Runners, a pro-life group that strives to end abortion through prayer and public awareness – climbed the 14,115-foot mountain, a fog grew thicker around him, and doubt crept into his mind.
"Lord, I am lost," he prayed. "I have no clue where I am. If this goal is possible, I’m going to need your help."
At that moment Castle heard a man’s voice: "We are 10 minutes from the top, we are going to break three hours."
That’s odd, he thought, that man sounds so close, why doesn’t he just go around me?
Castle made it to the top with one minute to spare and no one following him.
He later learned his mother had been praying to St. Padre Pio to help him as he ran the last 10 minutes of his race. That revelation floored Castle, and stayed with him over the next two years as he pondered why the famous saint helped him, and what that meant for his life.
Eventually, he decided to use that moment for inspiration as he combined his love of running with his devotion to the pro-life movement.
In 2008, LIFE Runners was formed.
"I love living out my faith this way," Castle said, noting that the group has grown from 12 members in 2008 to more than 6,000 in all 50 states and 30 countries.
Castle, who holds a doctorate in analytical chemistry and taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Mo., retired in 2014 to manage LIFE Runners full-time.
Just four months ago, he moved his family to Papillion to be closer to his mother, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and to focus on enlarging the fledgling LIFE Runners chapters in the state.
"There were 30 LIFE Runners in Omaha when we arrived in June," Castle said. "Now there are more than 150 and it’s growing."
And they have made their presence known, holding a Sept. 16 prayer and run at an abortion clinic in Bellevue, and returning to that abortion clinic the next week for the annual Vigil for Life Mass and rosary procession at St. Mary Church in Bellevue, led by Archbishop George J. Lucas.
Castle and his family are members of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion. His wife, Angi, is a speech pathologist at an elementary school in Papillion and their daughters, Paige and Grace, are students at Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue, where they started a LIFE Runners chapter that boasts 64 members.
All members wear bright blue jerseys that sport a cross and dove on the front and the group’s motto: "Remember the Unborn - Jer 1:5" on the back.
Ellie Koch, 18, of Council Bluffs and a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, heads the Omaha chapter.
"LIFE Runners is the perfect way to run with a purpose," Koch said.
The whole idea of applying a concrete action such as running or walking – which members are invited to do – and offering that up as a prayer for the unborn and their mothers, was really attractive to Koch.
"It’s an issue we can’t just sit back and be silent about – God needs us to be his instrument," she said. "LIFE Runners gives us the opportunity to literally be his hands and feet."