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Group blends passion with higher purpose

Members support, run and pray for their local pregnancy help centers. Herman and his fellow teammates raise money for CareNet Pregnancy Resource Center in Rapid City, which provides free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, medical consultations and counseling to anyone struggling with an unplanned pregnancy.

“LIFE Runners gives you a purpose for running,” said Herman, who’s completed two marathons since joining the ranks of Black Hills area pro life runners.

Supporters don blue and white T shirts, jerseys and other gear that read “REMEMBER The Unborn Jer. 1:5.” The Old Testament passage, in which God tells Jeremiah he was ordained to be a prophet long before his birth, is one of several verses pro life advocates use to make their case against abortion.

“It’s a silent witness,” said Sara Vetch, a mother of four who sports the logo at races and group gatherings.

Unlike Herman, the 45 year old Rapid City woman is a veteran runner. But the same motivation drew her to the organization.

“It combined something I was really passionate about with my faith and respect for all life,” she said.

Running partners Rich Reich and Pat Castle, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who until recently called the Black Hills home, launched LIFE Runners in 2008 for the purpose of blending passion with principle. cheap jerseys The two men saw their participation in marathons as a way to advance their pro life ideals.

Beginning in 2008, the pair encouraged like minded runners to make a sizable showing in at least one fall marathon. Thirteen runners represented the group at the 2008 Chicago Marathon. By 2012, 252 LIFE Runners turned out for the St. Louis Marathon, making them the largest team in the race.

Run Crazy Horse, which takes participants from the Crazy Horse Memorial to downhill Hill City, was supposed to be the organization’s 2013 marathon. Nearly 200 LIFE Runners from 19 states and Canada signed up to participate last October, but an unforeseen blizzard prevented many out of state marathoners from ever reaching South Dakota and snowed in those who did make it to the Black Hills.

It was a disheartening blow to all those who planned, prayed and put in so many miles in preparation for LIFE Runners’ national event.

“But it wasn’t a disaster,” said Nicci Blakeman, president of LIFE Runners’ Rapid City chapter. “It showed us that God has a plan, and it’s bigger than us.”

Winter Storm Atlas buried runners’ hopes of running for the unborn in the Black Hills, but it didn’t mute their message. Racers fanned out across the country to run in other marathons. They covered more ground and reached more people, Blakeman said.

Today, LIFE Runners is 2,600 plus members strong, with chapters in every state and 17 countries.

“We are growing quickly,” Blakeman said. “People are seeing the shirts and asking questions.”

LIFE Runners’ “REMEMBER” slogan stirs all kinds of emotion in passersby.

“You just don’t know how it’s going to affect people,” Vetch said.

The words on her back tend to evoke comments from other runners, but the feedback has always been positive.

Blakeman said she understands abortion elicits hard and fast feelings on both sides of the issue, but confrontation and conflict have never been LIFE Runners’ aim.

“Jesus is our frontrunner,” she said. “We let him lead us, and we follow.”

Blakeman knows a thing or two about following.

“Every LIFE Runner has a really great story,” she said, and the way by which she joined the organization is no less remarkable.

Two years ago, Blakeman said she felt led by God to do something more.

“So I told him to put my feet on the right path, and I would follow,” she said.

Two days later, she met Castle. At the time, he was still stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base and spoke at her church about a cross country relay for life. Every year on Ash Wednesday, LIFE Runners embark on a 40 day, 4,089 mile trek that stretches from New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Runners begin their journey on both coasts and converge in Sioux Falls on Palm Sunday.

Blakeman remembers Castle telling the congregation that runners were still needed to run 5K legs across South Dakota.