LIFE Runners Faced Crazy Horse Blizzard

13 Oct LIFE Runners Faced Crazy Horse Blizzard

For most of the nearly 200 LIFE Runners who planned to race the Crazy Horse 1K/5K/half/full Marathon (5-6 Oct), it wasn’t easy arranging transportation to the Black Hills, with very few direct flights and a long drive.  Then, Atlas showed up (possibly the most destructive winter storm on record in South Dakota).  Mission-focused LIFE Runners came anyway!
. Rapid-City-Airport-Map-with-Airlines-2-7-12The forecast changed from inches to feet of snow just 2 days before the Crazy Horse race weekend activities (4-6 Oct):  LIFE Runners came anyway!  Why?  To put our Pro-Life faith in action (Heb 12:1-2), to “REMEMBER The Unborn, Jer 1:5”, to run as a prayer for those tempted to abort their children, and to provide healing support for post-abortive mothers, fathers, families  (

Thursday, brought rain to most of South Dakota and much wind as well.  Driving across the flat and wide open state was a dance with the strong wind gusts that came with a punch.  LIFE Runners came anyway!


The bus from St. Louis left that night to pick up more LIFE Runners along the way.  Thanks to Dan Hinrichs and his team that helped put that transportation together.  It moved through Columbia, Kansas City, St. Joe, Sioux City and arrived in Sioux Falls for breakfast Friday morning.  There they picked up more riders including LIFE Runners president Dr. Pat Castle’s Mom Kathy and brother Dan.  About four hours later the bus ran into high winds and driving snow.


Pat knew the bus would not make it to the Rushmore Express in Keystone which is nestled in the mountains at the foot of Mount Rushmore.  So, he made arrangements to have the bus stop at Ellsworth Air Force Base which is on the eastern side of Rapid City.  It’s a good thing, because it could go no further due to white out conditions.  Banquet speakers Jeff Grabosky and Alton Pelowski joined Pat in welcoming the bus as it pulled into the base.  After getting stuck 4 times while traveling on the base, which had lost power by this time, the LIFE Runners bus was eventually able to make it to a gas station across the street from the Ellsworth AFB Cedar Inn.  Although the bus was parked less than 100 yards away, the hotel was not visible due to the blizzard.  A generous young airman from the base shuttled groups of 3 or 4 people and their luggage from the bus to the hotel in his four-wheel drive truck, making his own path through the snow since the roads had disappeared under the rapidly accumulating snow.



After everyone got settled into their rooms by flashlight the LIFE Runners met in what became the unofficial retreat center for the weekend: The Cedar Inn Conference Room.  Dr. Castle led the group in prayer and emphasized the opportunity to pray, grow closer as a team, and make the most of the opportunity.  This is exactly what those 35 LIFE Runners did over the next day and a half, conducting three 2-hour plus retreat sessions.  It was, of course, disappointing to realize that our training, planning, and time invested in getting ready for every detail of this LIFE Runners national event would not be utilized the way we expected.  However, it was even more powerful to be reminded that God is always in charge and to witness His awesome power:  natural, spiritual, personal.  Being “Light” to one-another in the darkness of the hotel, sharing all that we had in terms of food and goods, enjoying our military MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) on the second night, celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of Rapid City with LIFE Runners from many different Christian backgrounds, and finally seeing Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse were highlights the LIFE Runners will never forget.


LIFE Runners  like the Lacasse family from Sioux Falls, the Toni’s from Saskatchewan, Canada, Vitae Foundation’s president, Carl Landwehr, his wife, Carolyn and grandson Nathaniel, Pastor Tom Krause, Vitae’s chairman of the board, his wife Miriam, LIFE Runner VP of Communications and Vitae VP,  Anne Carmichael, along with her sisters Dolores Lauf  and Mary Jo Hitz, both LIFE Runners too, all drove to the Rushmore Express and arrived just before the snow storm “Atlas” hit Friday evening.  They were met there by the Beaner family from South Dakota, Mary Claire Miller, Sacramento, CA, along with her brother, Don McInnis from Front Royal, Virginia, who flew in to support his sister.  LIFE Runners, Kristina Davis and Mark Heron, both with Vitae Foundation too, drove in to help with the banquet.

It was cold and rainy Friday evening with a heavy fog that hung in the air.  The setting around the Rushmore Express was simply beautiful.  Lodged in a mountainside, which protected it from the heavy winds, made it even more picturesque.  The small community of Keystone was closing down for the season, but that didn’t keep “Peggy’s Restaurant” from staying open to feed the LIFE Runner group.  Peggy informed the group that when there’s a storm, the community usually loses power. Others that were still on the road were told to stop in Rapid City to pick up provisions. Kristina said that when she and Mark entered the Wal Mart there, it was like “Black Friday.”

The snow started around 11 pm that night.  At 3:00 am the power blinked off and on at the hotel.  Then at 3:30 it went off and did not come back on.  Most of the group had interior rooms in the hotel without windows to the outside.  Those rooms remained warm but were in constant darkness day and night.  Flashlights were given to all  staying there by the awesome hotel staff.  Those items needing refrigeration were moved to guess where???


The snow had continued through the morning and by 6:30 am Friday, Keystone had 3 – 4 inches of snow which soon grew to 12 inches and beyond.  Cell phones were charged and re-charged in the cars.


Later snow began to fall as if in an avalanche from the roof on the cars below.  Cars had to be moved away from the hotel.
After most of it fell off the roof, it created a pile of snow almost as high as the 2nd story of hotel and extended out halfway across the parking lot.  While most of the snow was off the roof there was still more to fall.  During one episode a support beam from hotel fell with the snow.


Those staying at the Rushmore Express were very fortunate.   Even though the hotel was only obligated to serve breakfast, (and that was when they had power), the staff ventured out to the homes of nearby family and friends and brought back hot food that was cooked outside on gas grills.  They were a very resourceful bunch.  Heating water over a single warmer flame to make the very necessary coffee for those who can’t start their day without it.  LIFE Runners were treated to homemade soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, spaghetti, chili, hot dogs along with salads and other delicious sides.  The hotel is owned by a ministry, The Keystone Project.

The post blizzard sun on Saturday, gave us our first glimpse of the storms power.  Cars were completely covered in some areas due to the blowing snow and driving winds of the blizzard.  Then came word from Pat through Sara Beaner, “The race and other LIFE Runner activities were canceled.”  Those that were in ear-shot of the news teared up.  Others heard about it later and did the same.  It was a hard call, but there was no other choice.  No Travel Alerts were setting off alarms on everyone’s cell phones every 30 minutes or so.  It was made known that anyone caught on the streets would be given $400 tickets.



Everyone stayed occupied including the kids that flocked to their new card playing buddy – Kristina Davis.


We found out later that snow plows in Rapid City couldn’t push the heavy snow, people were rescued from their cars by snow mobiles and that was after some people had to spend the night and up to 20 hours in their cars.


Those of us at the hotel were very fortunate indeed.  While some of the common/meeting areas were a little chilly, our rooms remained warm.  The Lacasse family whipped up a LIFE Runner snow man that the entire group took a picture around quickly before it melted.  Temperatures remained above freezing and began to increase causing rapid snow melt Saturday afternoon.


Due to the amount of snow that fell as well as wires and trees down,  restrictions remained in effect.  Saturday night, the group at the Rushmore Express hotel, organized a prayer service which was led by Pastor Tom Krause.   The picture is not the best due to the dimly lit room which was the norm once the sun went down.

1385103_10200950116937076_1787425748_nAll of the group said they were so thankful for their time together and felt it was another great LIFE Runners experience.  Carl Landwehr said he’d do it all over again.  The time together made way for a lot of fellowship between those stranded.  Pat Castle, LIFE Runners leader who was with the group at Ellsworth said, that God put a pause button on our weekend activities and it was a time for relationship building and breaking open the Word, which they did.  Click on this link to see video LIFE Runner John Ryan took of storm with Pat speaking in background.  Here is the LIFE Runners bus stranded at Ellsworth AFB Saturday afternoon.

Military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) at Ellsworth AFB Cedar Inn on Saturday night.


The parking lot on Sunday morning outside the Ellsworth AFB Cedar Inn.


For the group staying at the Rushmore Express, Sunday morning meant time to try and leave.  LIFE Runners began saying their good byes and convoying out to see what the rest of the area looked like, go to church and then start for home.  Below is our LIFE Runner Convoy led by Tim and Sara Beaner and their family.


As we made our way down the mountain cars littered the sides of the highway.  Driving through Rapid City, we saw a lot of devastation.  Houses crushed under trees, power lines down, etc.  Snow was melting fast, but many homes, businesses including Blessed Sacrament Church were without power. Cars could only travel the paths that were shoveled.


After the bus was dug out and freed by the LIFE Runner shovel brigade and the Air Force, it made it’s way over to the Rapid City Cathedral, where LIFE Runner Fr. Joe Coffey celebrated a special Mass for the LIFE Runners.



It was so exciting to finally get together with the rest of our team that made it to Rapid City.


After Mass, those on the bus were finally able to see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and other sights along the way…
…including the Little White Church in Rapid City that donned a LIFE Runners sign that was to greet runners as they crossed the finish line of the race.


Many had begun their travel to Rapid City on Thursday and Friday but were forced to turn back.  For all who tried to get there but couldn’t, we applaud your valiant effort to do all you could to be with your team.  Thanks for your sacrifice.  TD Dorrell (MO) pictured below.

Here are a few of the posts we saw on Facebook:

Maryann Barlett Glad you got to enjoy your detour. My husband flew as far as Denver, then had to return to KC. He just tells people he got to fly to Denver for lunch

Tracy Merkel Glass We’re in Chadron and debating how much further to go…

Chris McGrath I got as far as Minneapolis but my flight to Rapid City was cancelled. Now I see that the marathon has been cancelled.

Laura Craven Cipowski I am in Minneapolis too! My flight is supposed to leave at 3 today.

Mellissa Vergil Irish We made it to Alliance last night as my husband was going to run the marathon. We were so sad when it was cancelled. We were so looking forward to the dinner and prayer service.

Deanna Sporleder Chris is on his way home. Made it as far as Mitchell last night and stayed over. Got the word 9am this morning it was cancelled.

Forward, forward, always forward! The nearly 200 LIFE Runners who planned to race Crazy Horse will still race in their local areas, helping to change many hearts and minds with our “REMEMBER The Unborn, Jer 1:5” jerseys.  When this Fall marathon season is finished, our team will have courageously faced not only winterstorm “Atlas” but also the culture of death…All In Christ for Pro-Life!  Phil 4:13.

On 12 Oct, Keelan Glass (6 yrs old) raced the Showdown TX Half Marathon in 2:46…maybe a national record!  Huge announcement at finish for LIFE Runners and Keelan who raised almost $3K for local pregnancy resource center.  Story leading up to Crazy Horse was aired nationally on ABC TV (2 Oct):
Doug Young did his own marathon in Afghanistan on 4 Oct:  “in solidarity with the National LIFE Runners Team!”

Picture2Chezz awarded commanders coin from Dr. Castle for heriocally driving 35 LIFE Runners from stranded bus to Ellsworth AFB Inn during historic SD blizzard (4 Oct).  Angi Castle made him cookies and hot chocolate…cheers! 

This LIFE Runners Crazy Horse Facebook page album has many more photos.  If you have photos, please add them to the album for sharing.

Other news articles and footage on the historic snow storm/blizzard –  “Atlas” that we collected are below.

The Weather Channel

The Blaze –

The weather Underground

Rapid City Journal

Associated Press


Weather Channel Video

Northern Hills News

Amateur video of Blizzard

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