There's no escaping the Obamas. As I was watching "Phineas and Ferb" with three of the fittest boys under 10 in America, there was Michelle Obama promoting fitness and physical movement. Putting aside her policy prescriptions, it's certainly not a bad message. And Pat Castle would be more than happy to lead the training.
The first lady might not be that into the direction he'd lead, however.
Castle, a lieutenant colonel at Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis, co-founded LIFE Runners in 2008 with brother in pro-life and Air Force arms Rich Reich, a chemical research officer at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. Castle is the kind of unforgettable character who appears to put his heart and soul into every moment.
"Keep the faith, respect life from conception to natural death, run so as to win" is the mantra. LIFE Runners exists to "raise funds/awareness/prayers for pro-life," as Castle puts it, "while training for and racing in marathons." With runners from 19 states and countries as far as Turkey and Kenya, LIFE participants compete in numerous half or full marathons each year. The group has been represented at marathons in Chicago, the Twin Cities and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Nearly 200 runners are signed up for the next run on Oct. 15 in Kansas City, including a Catholic bishop from Illinois. Those training each have a $250 goal, with the money going toward helping the Sioux Falls Alpha Center purchase a pregnancy-help bus that will provide free sonograms in rural areas. Some of the funds raised above $25,000 will be donated to Kansas City's Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic for the same purpose.
It's also great self-help, not just in the Michele Obama PSA way. "Training for marathons requires great discipline (exercise for discipleship) and affords quiet time for prayer. The suffering times during speed workouts and long runs are potent prayers to help save the unborn and families," Castle says. In April at a fundraiser for the Sioux Falls Alpha Center, he said to a room of more than 700: "Let us get rid of everything that slows us down ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
The idea for the organization came about while Castle and Reich were marathon training in 2006. When work separated them, the morning conversations that came with their workouts continued via email, and toward the end of 2007, Castle began sharing these conversations with some family and friends. Soon a blog was born. Living In Faith Exchange (LIFE) Group focuses on the Christian's calling to live the faith and share it. LIFE now has a Facebook presence and even a radio component to spread the love.
Castle and his wife, Angi, put energy into marriage training, too, by helping lead Catholic marriage-preparation retreats. "As couples grow closer to God through service/sacrifice, they also grow closer to each other," he wrote, coach-like, in a May devotion.
Castle's zeal is contagious and even a little bit relentless. When I met him in South Bend, Ind. this summer for the Vitae Institute conference at Notre Dame, he had actually bought a conference participant a pair of sneakers so he could join the crowd Castle had rounded up for early morning runs. You may not run actual marathons, but he may get you running in one way or another -- more fully engaged in life, in your beliefs, in helping others be able to move and flourish. (Anyone can sign up with LIFE Runners devotions at www.lifegroup413.org.)
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. The first lady wouldn't find that all bad.
And 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 thought for getting Washington moving, as well.