By Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia
Staff Sgt. Daniel Castanon joined more than 35,000 people who traveled to the nation’s capital, Oct. 20, 2013, to run the 29th annual Army Ten-Miler. For Castanon, this year would mark his second time participating in one of the nation’s largest races. Although he came with the goal to top his previous race record, his ultimate drive to do better than the year before would be found in two names.
“Mayleen Dilone and Justin Ortega” said Castanon, motor transport operator, 529th Regimental Support Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “Those are the names of my two [9-year-old] cousins who were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Last year, initially, I wanted to run the race just for the experience but this year my motivation behind running it and wanting to do well was because of them.”
Castanon, who unfortunately is accustomed to having family members who are diagnosed with cancer, said receiving this kind of news was even more devastating.
“It shook up the family a little because it’s something we’re not used to dealing with,” said Castanon “When you get the babies diagnosed with diabetes it’s like you’re taking away a little bit of their childhood. They have to learn to eat differently and take insulin shots. It’s stressful and can become stressful on the parents and it’s really a life-changing thing for kids to have to deal with at this age.”
Although Castanon had already begun vigorously training for the ten-miler, he said knowing this made him push a little harder. He lost 25 pounds over a six-month period and changed his diet completely, focusing more on portion control and eliminating fast foods and sodas.
“This year it wasn’t just about finishing because it wasn’t just about me,” said Castanon. “I was running in my cousins’ names as a tribute to them. That is why I really wanted to push myself and not come in at the same time I came in last year.”
Castanon’s aunt, Hilda Aponte, said the family was ecstatic about his plans.
“We are a very big family and we are all trying to find a cure for this, so it meant a lot to our family to find out he wanted to do this in support of his two little cousins,” said Aponte. “We made shirts and everything to send to him. We wanted to let him know we were rooting for him all the way from New York.”
The day of the race, Castanon wore this shirt as a constant reminder of what he was running for and to let them know he stood with them.
“It was my way to say ‘Although I haven’t seen you all in awhile, I’m thinking of you and I’m supporting you. I didn’t raise a whole bunch of money for the cause but I wore this t-shirt with your names on it because I care’,” said Castanon.
By mile six, Castanon admitted he felt very fatigued but knew he couldn’t give up on himself or his family.
“I knew they were tracking this run and I wasn’t going to let them down,” said Castanon.
In the end, he would stay true to his word. Castanon met his goal at the finish line, beating his previous time by almost 11 minutes. He made sure to let his cousins know he accomplished what he set out to do.
“I spoke with my Aunt Hilda after the race and I told her to tell them I did the best that I could,” Castanon said. “I told her to tell them everyone who I passed that day will know their names and know that they are fighters too.”