WASHINGTON – How far would you go to defend life? Life Runners in the US would go about 26.2 miles (42.2 km) a race.
Founded in South Dakota by running partners Pat Castle and Rich Reich, Life Runners has been promoting Catholicism and the pro-life movement through marathons in some of the nation’s biggest cities since 2008.
Mr Castle said Life Runners came out of a prayer group the two men co-founded in 2007, called Life Group Devotions. They decided to create an “action arm” of their ministry.
“We started with devotions from the beginning and then it dawned on us. We are training and running marathons, and we are looking for a pro-life ‘action arm’,” Mr Castle told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.
“There was none, I mean zero, organised pro-life teams represented in marathons.”
Life Runners’ goal is to participate in at least one marathon a year. In 2008, it was the Chicago marathon; in 2009, St Paul-Minneapolis; in 2010, Sioux Falls, and 2011, Kansas City.
Mr Castle said the group’s five-member board chooses the location. They “look for fall marathons around the country and then decide where our mission is needed most”.
Life Runners, now based in St Louis, is made up of people who pray, run and raise money for pregnancy help centres, and build awareness about the abortion issue.
Once the location is decided, a pro-life beneficiary is picked, and the organisation’s local chapters spend the year fundraising for the designated pro-life entity.
“Every penny goes toward the beneficiaries,” Mr Castle noted.
The runners wear blue T-shirts with the scriptural quote “REMEMBER The Unborn Jer 1:5” across the back.
“We are certainly pro-life missionaries,” Mr Castle said. “We are wearing a jersey like a little mini-billboard, and we are running through the streets of cities in secular races. We are bringing the pro-life message into the world. We don’t have to speak a word. We are representing Christ with that message on our back.”
Ms Lisa Skowron, 44, a pro-life Methodist, joined Life Runners because of the support its members gave her. She said she had an abortion that left her searching for healing for 24 years.
“I went through post-abortive healing in 2008. Then I started running to connect with God again. I ran my first half marathon in 2008 and first full marathon in 2009. I dedicated it to the child I had aborted,” she told CNS.
Ms Skowron came across Life Runners by reading a LifeSiteNews article. She sent an email to Life Runners, sharing her story and asking about its mission.
“I had prayed one day that God would inspire me to run again,” she said.
Around 500 people from across the US currently belong to Life Runners.
The organisation’s most recent event was a marathon in St Louis on April 15, though the group often has more than just one race per year because local chapters can organise and participate in local races.
“We have just taken off,” Mr Castle said. “We have a strategic goal of growing. In 2011, we raised US$35,000 (S$44,270) before really having an organised fundraising process. It would not surprise me if we raised close to US$100,000 this year.”
Life Runners’ next race is the St Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on Oct 21. Mr Castle estimates about 400 people will participate with Life Runners.
When a person signs up with Life Runners, he or she is told about the organisation’s local chapters.
According to Mr Castle, chapter members pray together and train together. Most chapters also have a chaplain.
“If someone registering does not have a chapter close to them, I encourage them to start one. All they need is five runners,” he said. - CNS
The Life Runners website is http://liferunners.org