71-Year-Old Best Friends Animal Society CEO to Run 170 Miles to Save Millions of Shelter Pets

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Gregory Castle will run the grueling Grand to Grand Ultra on September 21 to raise funds for his non-profit organization, which is dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in U.S. shelters.

Best Friends Animal Society CEO Gregory Castle practices for the Grand to Grand Ultra Marathon at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT.

I knew from the start of Best Friends 30 years ago that achieving a No-Kill society was a long-distance undertaking. The challenge that Best Friends faces to Save Them All is just like a marathon.

Surrounded by the red rock majesty of Southern Utah, with Shadow his German Shepherd by his side, Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, is getting ready for the race of his life.

As his feet pound the ground during a morning training run, Castle isn’t just thinking of the 170 miles he will have to endure in the grueling Grand to Grand Ultra Marathon on September 21, the first and only self-supported stage foot race in the country. He’s reflecting on the millions of dogs and cats that will die in America’s shelters this year.

For Castle, an avid runner who has completed 17 marathons since 1999 (including three Boston Marathons), running one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the country has a similar theme to his passion for running.

“I knew from the start of Best Friends 30 years ago that achieving a No-Kill society was a long distance undertaking,” Castle said. “The challenge that Best Friends faces to Save Them All is just like a marathon. It takes the same kind of meticulous planning and hard work to pull off.”

Going the distance is nothing new for Castle. It took him two years to qualify for his first Boston Marathon, which he ran in 2004, 2006 and 2009. (Castle’s marathon PR is 3:58).

When Castle crossed the Boston Marathon finish line for the first time, he likened it to the progress Utah was experiencing as Best Friends worked towards achieving the No-Kill Goal in its home state. “I burst into tears. It was very meaningful,” Castle said. (Utah is currently at an 80.3% Save Rate - 91.3% for dogs and 63.3% for cats. 90% is the recognized benchmark for No-Kill status.)

With all his marathon experience, the Grand to Grand Ultra is still a first for Castle; the race requires running with a 20 pound pack carrying a tent, sleeping bag, clothes and food, something he’s never done before, over the course of six days. And that’s not all.

“I’m used to running on roads, but the Grand to Grand covers all terrain, including sand. I’m excited but nervous, too. It’s kind of crazy. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever faced a bigger physical challenge,” Castle said. “I don’t think I would’ve done this without the fundraising aspect.”

Castle has set a personal fundraising goal of $170,000 to benefit Best Friends, of which more than $77,000 has been met as of late August. “I’m very pleased with the amount of attention this has been getting. Over 1,000 people have donated so far,” Castle said.

In addition to funds, raising awareness for the 9,000 dogs and cats killed every day in U.S. shelters is crucial to Castle. Best Friends’ Save Them All call to action has 30 ways for pet lovers to help homeless dogs and cats in their community, including adoption, spaying and neutering of current pets, volunteering and networking pets in need via social media.

“If people can come into an arena of inspiration by someone doing something as extreme as this, I’ve certainly achieved my aim,” Castle said.

To support Gregory Castle's fundraising efforts for Best Friends Animal Society, visit https://secure.bestfriends.org/page/outreach/view/personalFR/gregory

About Best Friends Animal Society®
Best Friends Animal Society is a national animal welfare organization focused on ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters. An authority and leader in the no-kill movement, Best Friends runs the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals, as well as lifesaving programs in partnership with rescue groups and shelters across the country. Since its founding in 1984, Best Friends has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters nationwide from 17 million per year to about 4 million. Best Friends has the knowledge, technical expertise and on-the-ground network to end the killing and Save Them All®.

To become a fan of Best Friends Animal Society on Facebook go to: http://www.facebook.com/bestfriendsanimalsociety

Follow Best Friends on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bestfriends

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Michelle Sathe
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