Patrick Castle, left, and Jeff Grabosky display a LIFE Runners sign near Imogene, Iowa, at the start of day two of their 63-mile run. Last year the sign also made it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in in Africa with a LIFE Runners team. COURTESY PHOTO

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Pro-life cause motivates runners and relay founders on 63-mile course

You’ve got to be passionate to undertake a 35.5-mile run in searing July heat.

But passionate is probably an understatement for Patrick Castle and Jeff Grabosky, co-founders of the LIFE Runners A-Cross America Relay.

They logged 63 miles in two runs July 21-22 on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail in Iowa, from Council Bluffs south to the Missouri state border.

Their physical endurance is inspiring, but it’s the pro-life cause that drives Grabosky, of Ave Maria, Florida, and Castle who’s a member of two parishes, St. Columbkille in Papillion and St. Matthew in Bellevue. 

Their faith has been motivating the two runners over hundreds of miles since founding the relay 10 years ago – and even before then.

Castle, who started running marathons in 1990, combined his love of running with his pro-life passion, founding LIFE Runners in 2008, when he was a chemistry professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Today the organization – which strives to encourage vulnerable mothers with its pro-life message – has nearly 20,000 members, both runners and non runners, from 41 countries.

Grabosky ran 3,700 miles across the United States in 2011, solo and unsupported, praying for people’s intentions throughout the four-month undertaking and averaging well over a marathon per day.

He wrote a book about his experience: “Running With God Across America.”

Each year the A-Cross American Relay draws thousands of participants. Most take up a 5-kilometer section of the relay, running or walking wherever they are for a combined 5,359 miles that would make a cross-shaped route on a U.S. map.

Like Grabosky and Castle, they wear their “REMEMBER The Unborn” T-shirts. Their aim is to “inspire, motivate and encourage people to put their pro-life faith in action,” Castle said.

On July 21, he and Grabosky began their local run early, starting at dusk to beat the heat.

Jeff Grabosky pushes along on Iowa’s Wabash Trace Nature Trail on the first day of the run. COURTESY PHOTO

On the first day the two ran and prayed for 22 miles before stopping to refresh – refilling drinks and changing clothes, socks or shoes. “You can imagine what that means with the humidity,” Castle said by phone after completing the first day’s run.

They ran and walked in intervals to finish the rest of the 35.5 miles, ending the first day’s course after six hours and 45 minutes.

Castle, who’s run many marathons, said he wasn’t accustomed to running more than the 26.2 miles, let alone running those types of distances on back-to-back days.

So he was unsure about how the next day would unfold.

On day two, they made it 27 miles. They prayed a decade of the rosary during each mile as they neared the end. The Sorrowful Mysteries seemed appropriate, Castle said, as they pushed through the heat and the physical and mental discomforts of running a long distance.

After the rosary, Castle and Grabosky had 5 miles to go, but they had encouragement. Bernadette Costello, operations director for LIFE Runners, had run a portion of the 63-mile stretch and was available for help and support. 

Along the last 5 miles, she’d scratched messages in the dust along the trail and planted a “REMEMBER THE UNBORN” yard sign.

Those messages gave them peace and inspiration as they wrapped that final grueling stretch, Castle said.

They completed the day’s 27-mile stretch in four hours and 55 minutes.

“It was a good day,” he said, “miraculous.”