However, when U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Ivan Castro and Lieutenant Colonel Fredrick Dummars cross the finish line of the race sometime in Sunday’s early morning hours, it will be not only be a testament to the strength and drive of the individual, but also a statement of brotherhood and the will to never surrender.
Showing no capitulation, Capt. Castro has continued his military service after being blinded while in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Sept. 2, 2006.
He has also parlayed a shared interest in running into first an unbreakable tie of brotherhood and mentor/mentee relationship with Lt. Col. Dummars, and a platform to advocate for other Wounded Warriors.
Their relationship began when Castro returned to Special Forces after being wounded.
“When I came back, I’d never met him before,” Castro said. “He was basically a stranger, but he knew that I enjoyed running, and asked if I’d like to run a marathon with him. I took him up on it, and ever since then we’ve been running buddies and great friends.”
The two work together at the Fort Bragg Special Forces recruiting office and have run several 26-mile marathons together. They are tethered by a string with Dummar out front.
Dummar described some of the challenges Castro faces when they run these competitive races, and his motivations for facing those challenges.
“Other runners really use visual cues for motivation, but he has to depend on me to tell him how high the hill is or where the next water station is,” Dummar said. “Sometimes to be an advocate, you must step out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. You have to put yourself out there as an example of something positive, and what a person can do when they rise to meet challenges.”
He said part of he and Castro’s racing ritual is taken from the Warrior Ethos, which their shirts have an excerpt from printed across the back.
“Part of the Warrior Ethos is that ‘I will never give up,’ and that will be on the back of (Castro’s) shirt,” Dummar said. “That means a lot to us in Special Forces, and sometimes it’s easy to say things like I will never give up, but then when you meet the first obstacle, how easy is it to say now I give up?
“It’s inspiring to see someone facing adversity and living that motto.”
“Another part of the Warrior Ethos is ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade,” Castro said. “And that will be on the back of the Lt. Col.’s shirt as well.”
Castro is overcoming adversity in more ways than just racing nowadays.
However, though the two have much experience running marathons, this will be Castro’s first 50-miler.
“I got lured into this one,” Castro said. “The Lieutenant Colonel is an ultra-marathon runner. He runs 50- and 100-miles like you or I might run a six-miler, but I’m up to the challenge and even though this is my first 50-miler, hopefully it’s not my last.”
The begins at 6 p.m. at Bethel Baptist Church. Many who finish the race will do so following Sunday’s sunrise.The race begins and ends at Bethel Church on Bethel Hill near Mangum. It is run on a 10-mile loop of road that includes Cartledge Creek Road and Grassy Island Road. Five transits over the entire loop complete the race.
The event was once known as the Ellerbe Springs Race, but has been resurrected after a dormant period by the Mangum Track Club.
Dummar said there are some unique aspects of this race that should work to he and Castros’ advantage.
“First of all, it’s a rural race, so it shouldn’t be so many people,” he said. “Second, it’s held at night, so other people will probably also have difficulty seeing, and third it’s all on paved roads. It should be a challenge, but we’re up to it.”
The message Castro hopes others take from him completing the marathon - never give up.
“I think for anybody, not only a wounded warrior or people with disabilities, I think it’s all up to your attitude ... It’s all about believing in yourself,” Castro said. “If I can help one person, or maybe even two, by running this race, maybe I won’t help them run a 50-mile race, but they can see the blind guy out there running around and crossing the finish line, maybe it will motivate them to do something else they would really like to do.”
“This is a story about continuing to drive on,” Dummar said. “It’s a story about friendship, and it’s a story about never giving up.”
Castro and Dummar also hope to raise awareness about the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which pays for a college education for the children of Special Operations soldiers who die in battle.
The donation link is on Facebook at https://www.causes.com/fb/donations/new?cause_id=3247&fundraiser_id=28627745&m=38d81d22.