WASHINGTON, D.C., January 28, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Not everyone who came to support the unborn last week in Washington, D.C., marched. Some ran.
The inaugural Nellie Gray 5K run took place at West Potomac Park on Saturday, the morning after the March for Life. 156 runners lined up at 8 a.m. to brave a light but cutting wind, run the good race, and raise money for crisis pregnancy centers across the country.
Steve Castle, one of the five core leaders of LIFE Runners, called their action “redemptive running.”
“We offer our whole bodies as prayer – not just our minds but also action,” he told LifeSiteNews.com. “We offer that all up for the unborn for the mothers, for an end to abortion, which is our finish line in this race that we're in.”
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life gave an opening invocation, asking that “this event be a witness across this land to the energy which we must devote to this cause.”
A figurative baton was passed at the race, as new March for Life director Jeanne Monahan, who is taking over from the late Nellie Gray, participated in the race and announced its start. Dr. Pat Castle of LIFE Runners said Monahan's dedication to organizing all the details of the march exemplified “servant leadership.”
Monahan stayed on hand to present trophies to the race's top finishers.
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The winner, 23-year-old Andrew Roddin from Long Island, finished with a time of 18:10. Roddin told LifeSiteNews he had been racing for 11 years before he learned of an event specifically dedicated to spreading the message of life. “The pro-life cause is one I feel strongly about and want to support any way I can,” he said.
The top female time belonged to Anna Holtz-Gosslin, at 19:32.
Children participated in a 1K run. The first girl to cross the finish line, Zee Ziandri, received rousing cheers as Monahan handed her a trophy.
The boy with the best time in the 5K bashfully identified himself only as “Kyle.”
Many of the participants wore t-shirts emblazoned with the words, “Remember the Unborn,” followed by a reference to Jeremiah 1:5.
Since LIFE Runners was founded six years ago as two of its founders were preparing for a marathon running up Pike's Peak, its members have worn the shirts in marathons, sprints, and races across the nation. Steve Castle said its members are “billboards for life.”
Fellow runners “see it as a silent, private witness,” Castle told LifeSiteNews. “And it engages the culture in a way that is not combative.”
Saturday's race included five members of the Third Order Franciscans in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and a number of nuns conspicuously wearing tennis shoes.
Before the opening countdown, they enthusiastically offered their motto: “All in Christ, for pro-life!”
Fr. Frank Pavone gave them ample reason for excitement, announcing that the Mississippi state board of health had just announced that it intended to revoke the license of its last remaining abortion facility – something many people there referred to as “the Nellie Gray miracle.”
Jeff Pauls and Jeff Grabosky organized the event. Grabosky recorded his story of running across the United States to raise awareness of abortion in his book, Running with God across America.
The pair are already looking forward to their 40 Days for Life Relay. Between February 13 and March 24, volunteers will run a total of 4,089 miles across the United States. Two teams of runners will begin, at the Brooklyn and the Golden Gate Bridges, and converge at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The race will be broken down into 1,103 legs.
For the event's organizers, Saturday's race had one component no other race of the year will have. “This is really about Nellie Gray,” Steve Castle told LifeSiteNews.