“Loving your neighbor enough to speak the truth” – International pro-life running team gives joyful life witness for such a time as this

“Loving your neighbor enough to speak the truth” – International pro-life running team gives joyful life witness for such a time as thisThe LIFE Runners pro-life apostolate witnessed to life at the 2023 Run Crazy Horse marathon/half marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota (LIFE Runners)

LIFE Runners continues to bear witness to the sanctity of human life in a culture increasingly hostile to life and its Creator. The pro-life apostolate is experiencing marked growth and shared its life-saving message with thousands of runners and spectators recently at the foot of the world’s largest mountain carving memorial.

LIFE Runners’ 2023 national race retreat brought runners from numerous U.S. states to the Run Crazy Horse Marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where they conveyed the pro-life message, donning the team’s signature REMEMBER The Unborn jerseys as they ran. The call to live in witness to life observed by the group was heightened this year as founder Dr. Pat Castle made clear that doing so is integral with living authentically as a Christian, and both are critical now more than ever – even when there is a cost. 

The Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota was the site for the
 2023 LIFE Runners national race retreat/Lisa Bourne

The Run Crazy Horse Marathon/Half Marathon was the 16th race retreat for the group, but the second attempt at the Crazy Horse event. The national race was scheduled there in 2013 but was cancelled due to Winter Storm Atlas, one of the worst blizzards in South Dakota history, stranding nearly 200 LIFE Runners near Ellsworth Airforce Base for days. Coming back to Crazy Horse 10 years after the historic storm punctuated the call for LIFE Runners to persist in witnessing to life.

LIFE Runners gathered at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City
 the night before the national retreat race at the Crazy Horse Memorial
 Upper photo: LIFE Runners/Lower: Lisa Bourne

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The Papillion, Neb., LIFE Runners apostolate began in 2008 with 12 teammates. On October 12, 2008, 12 LIFE Runners from five states raced the Chicago Marathon to raise funds for ultrasound equipment. 

Life Runners now has 22,000+ teammates in all 50 states and 3,300+ cities across 46 countries. 
The outreach is steeped in faith, prayer, and public witness. Local chapters are encouraged to meet wearing their jerseys as a visible witness. The national race retreat is an opportunity for LIFE Runners to gather annually as a group, to run and reflect on the mission. Running is optional for teammates, with the focus on witnessing to prevent abortion by wearing jerseys and jackets with the REMEMBER The Unborn message that also references the scripture passage Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” 

LIFE Runners cites as the foundation for its approach the statistic that says 78% of post-abortion mothers have said that if they had one encouraging person or message while making their abortion decision, they would have chosen life. 

The urgency to reach women and girls with the message of life is more crucial now with access to abortion in the mail or across state lines through chemical abortion. LIFE Runners thus promotes life to young people as the preferred choice prior to them facing an unexpected pregnancy, delivering a life-affirming message through talks in schools and communities. The group estimates that more than 9,000 students ages kindergarten to college now wear this pro-life message.

There were 858 new LIFE Runners through August and September. The group claims members ranging in age from less than a year-old to 101 years of age.

The evangelization takes place in groups through the presentations but also one-on-one when people see the REMEMBER The Unborn message on a jersey. Individual LIFE Runners regularly report having a life-saving impact when wearing their jersey. This can occur amid a race and when teammates wear their jerseys in other venues.

LIFE Runners founder and President Dr. Pat Castle registers a new LIFE Runners
 teammate at the finish line of Run Crazy Horse 2023 after the young man,
 a race spectator, inquired about the group's pro-life jerseys/Lisa Bourne

One instance demonstrating the impact was when Castle signed up LIFE Runner #22,099 at the finish line of the Crazy Horse race, a young man who inquired about the jersey message having seen runners wearing them. 

The 2023 race retreat in the Black Hills saw 75 LIFE Runners bringing that message from locales including New York City, Illinois, San Antonio, Texas, Aiken, S.C., Omaha Neb., Iowa, Minnesota, Cape Girardeau, Mo., and South Dakota. The race also coincided with the last day of LIFE Runners’ A-Cross America Relay, which forms a cross, this year spanning 5359 miles and 1528 5K legs, also pausing for prayer at abortion facilities.

The night before the race, Castle spoke to runners gathered for the race retreat, emphasizing the significance of the pro-life witness at this point in time.

LIFE Runners jersey/Lisa Bourne

While the LIFE Runners jersey contains the REMEMBER The Unborn message on the back, on the jersey’s front there is a cross, signifying the apostolic mission of each Christian individual, something that sets Christians apart more each day.

“You are carrying the cross - quite literally,” Castle said. “Take a look at your jersey, LIFE Runners.” 

LIFE Runners came from at least 9 U.S. states for the 2023 national race retreat
 at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota/LIFE Runners

He cautioned against downplaying the importance of wearing the pro-life message or the cross.

“In this culture it’s a big deal to slap on this shirt and walk around,” Castle said. “And it’s getting to be a bigger deal.”

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LIFE Runners pray the night before the Run Crazy Horse marathon/half marathon
 as part of the group's national race retreat/Lisa Bourne

There is a cultural decline resulting in rejection of Christian principles, he said, but urged teammates to not despair.

While many may think it’s never been harder to be a Christian, Castle said, it has actually never been easier to be a Christian than now, because with the culture’s decay the opportunities to offer witness are everywhere.

“We’re there,” he said, referencing the current post-Christendom climate.

“We’re now in a time that if you’re living out your faith you might not get promoted, you might not get hired,” Castle gave as example.

LIFE Runners is 15 years old, he said, but, five years ago you wouldn’t have heard him talk about Christendom and the apostolic mission side of the shirt (bearing the cross). 

Castle speaks to LIFE Runners teammates about giving witness to life the night before
 the 2023 national retreat race in the Black hills of South Dakota/Lisa Bourne

When people think of LIFE Runners, they immediately think of ‘Remember The Unborn,’ he said, but it’s not just REMEMBER The Unborn. 

“Oh no,” Castle said. 

“There’s a front of the jersey,” he said, noting the cross on front. “That’s the front of the jersey.”

Pro-life and pro-God go hand in hand, said Castle, when you lose God, you don’t respect life, and today there is an ever widening disconnect from the Creator.

LIFE Runners pre-race prayer before the Run Crazy Horse marathon and half marathon/Lisa Bourne

“We’re supposed to be reminding each other that the road and the gate is narrow,” Castle told runners, citing Matthew 7:14. “It doesn’t feel good talking about that, but we are there.”

Our job as Christians, he said, out of mercy, and love, and truth, where charity meets clarity and love meets truth, is to share the hard scriptures.

“The world will look at you and say this is not compassion,” said Castle, “but not saying the truth about the narrow gate is false compassion.”

“Real compassion is loving your neighbor enough to speak the truth,” he added.

Credit: LIFE Runners

Four LIFE Runners teammates placed in the top 25 finishers overall at Run Crazy Horse. 

While this is remarkable, Castle said, “The teammates on the course the longest did the most witness with fitness.” 

LIFE Runners’ 2024 national race retreat will be in conjunction with the 2024 Portland Marathon races, October 6, 2024.

For more information visit the LIFE Runners website HERE.

Editor's note: The author is a LIFE Runners teammate and took part in the 2023 national race retreat, completing the 2023 Run Crazy Horse half marathon.

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