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McCastle’s mom, Gloria, an Air Drive nurse initially from the Philippines, was rigorous and protecting through his childhood in Illinois and New Mexico. He was closer in persona to his father, an Air Drive law enforcement officer from Louisiana: easygoing, comfortable-spoken, interested in the metaphysical as much as the corporeal.

Raymond McCastle Jr. struggled with a extensive array of overall health problems, which includes Parkinson’s, most cancers, coronary heart assaults, and strokes. But he endured it all with astonishing toughness and grace. “My dad was a fighter,” McCastle suggests.

When McCastle and his more mature sister were being younger, Raymond go through them philosophy: Plato, Nietzsche, and Viktor Frankl. He was particularly fond of the Stoics—Seneca, Marcus Aurelius—and Epicurus, who all believed that self-management and fortitude were being the path to residing a virtuous and meaningful lifestyle. “It was way above my head,” McCastle suggests. “It was not until I was more mature that I could realize and essentially see what the classes were being and essentially apply them.”

McCastle’s moms and dads separated when he was 7. In high faculty, he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, with his father. (His sister was by now out of the house.) Raymond’s overall health was deteriorating fast, and he necessary assistance with fundamental tasks like shaving and bathing. It was a enormous responsibility for the teenage McCastle.

In the course of his junior year, McCastle came house from basketball exercise a single working day to come across his father collapsed on the kitchen area floor of their small condominium. He couldn’t discuss and his entire body was convulsing. Preventing off panic, McCastle gave his father an insulin injection and known as 911. The ambulance took an eternity.

McCastle quit the basketball staff the upcoming working day. “I felt like it was my fault,” he suggests. “I must have been there.”

As Raymond’s overall health declined, he observed the toll it was having on his son. Raymond had two daughters and a son from a former relationship, and a single of McCastle’s 50 percent-sisters, who lived in Chicago, made available to get above his treatment. Raymond agreed to move in with her so his youngest son could move on with his lifestyle. McCastle desired to sign up for the Navy when he finished high faculty. His father supported him, but it was nevertheless the toughest selection he had at any time built. “I felt like I deserted him—like I was operating away.”

In the Navy, McCastle labored as an air visitors controller, a high-strain work that set him in cost of the security of 1000’s of persons each working day. He discovered how to conduct underneath stress and compartmentalize his feelings. In the meantime, physical fitness and toughness training grew to become an obsession. He labored out pretty much each and every working day, operating, lifting weights, and undertaking calisthenics, with prolonged hikes and kayak paddles in amongst. In 2012, he handed a brutal test consisting of push-ups, pull-ups, operating, and swimming that permitted him to check out out for the SEAL method in San Diego. But a lot less than two months into the two-month training interval that adopted, he took a lousy soar through a beach front operate and blew out both his knees. He was devastated.

“I lost my identity,” McCastle suggests. “I felt like nobody.” He commenced ingesting, gained thirty pounds. Despite the fact that he was by no means diagnosed with melancholy, he thinks he would have qualified if he had sought qualified assistance. “There’s a stigma attached to mental overall health problems in the military services exactly where it is viewed pretty much as a weakness,” he suggests. “It was like, you just suck it up, you get the work completed.”

The worse he felt, the much more McCastle isolated himself from good friends and family. He was sinking. “I appeared in the mirror and imagined, this is not somebody my dad would be very pleased of,” he suggests.

Pushing his entire body to its restrict was the a single matter that built him experience the most alive. He commenced looking for some thing really hard, a obstacle that may possibly be just out of his attain. He had by no means operate a marathon but felt confident he could complete a single. So in late 2013, McCastle determined to operate 50 kilometers all-around Lake Union in Seattle. To make it about much more than just proving himself bodily, he determined to devote the operate to boosting revenue for most cancers research at Seattle Children’s Medical center. It had been just above a year due to the fact his knee accidents. Still, he chose to operate with a forty-pound vest on, to symbolize the bodyweight of a boy or girl battling most cancers.

For McCastle, the actual physical pain and mental discomfort of the Labors are both the point and beside the point.

His knees held out and he finished in underneath five several hours. The results pushed back the darkness and remaining him with a new experience of liberty and goal. The operate did not turn him into a SEAL, and it did not assistance his ailing father. But it was some thing. It helped somebody. “The result in was the essential,” he suggests.

McCastle remembered his father reading him the Greek fantasy of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. As the story goes, Hera, the queen of the gods, built Hercules go temporarily crazy and destroy his spouse and young children. When he recovered his sanity, Hercules was tasked with finishing a series of feats so hard they appeared unattainable. His reward for finishing was absolution—and immortality.

McCastle had heard stories about real persons undertaking unbelievable matters when the second demanded it— mothers who elevate cars and trucks off their younger young children trapped beneath, dog house owners who combat off bears to conserve their pets. How much could he endure, he wondered, in the assistance of other persons? He determined he would produce eleven much more tasks of his individual, each a single as near to unattainable as he could conceive, and each tied to a charity. For range two, he established his sights on the world report for the most pull-ups in 24 several hours: four,030, established by Navy SEAL David Goggins. This a single would be committed to the Wounded Warrior Undertaking, a charity and assistance business for hurt veterans. He trained for six months, developing his way up to one,five hundred pull-ups a working day.

His mom was in the group when he built his try in a community park on Whidbey Island, Washington, in July 2014. The first thousand pull-ups went wonderful. But shortly immediately after he handed 2,000, the tendons and muscle mass in his arms commenced to fall short. He saved going. Some donations were being based mostly on his hitting selected benchmarks. But it was not just that. “My pleasure and fear would not permit me quit,” he suggests. Day turned to dusk. In the course of relaxation breaks, he viewed his urine turn as darkish as barrel-aged whiskey. His entire body was breaking down his harmed muscle mass tissue and flushing it out through his circulatory program, a condition known as rhabdomyolysis that can guide to kidney failure and demise.

After 17 several hours, McCastle had to stop. He had finished three,202 pull-ups, much a lot less than his target. His entire body was so wrecked he expected four times in the medical center. His mom sat with him and they viewed the information on Tv set: Sailor hospitalized immediately after pull-up challenge—after this crack.

Even however McCastle lifted above $10,000, it felt like SEAL training all above yet again. All he could think about was that he had failed. “It was about me and my moi,” he suggests. Now even the 50-kilometer operate seemed self-serving, much more about proving some thing to himself than encouraging many others.

He imagined about the concept of amor fati, or “love of fate,” a single of the lots of Latin phrases he’d absorbed from his father’s readings. A pillar of Nietzsche’s philosophy, it suggests accepting, even embracing, failure and suffering as portion of existence, and applying them as opportunities to find out and improve.

On McCastle’s 2nd working day in the medical center, a teenager in a wheelchair rolled into his space. He was ready for an organ transplant, McCastle recalls. The kid apologized for demonstrating up unannounced, but he desired to say how much the pull-up try had impressed him.

“He did not treatment about the report,” McCastle suggests. “I observed that even in failure, I could nevertheless affect persons in a positive way. It was an epiphany.”

McCastle felt his pondering shift as his entire body recovered. “I no for a longer time had some thing to confirm through the true actual physical labor by itself,” he suggests. “I could focus much more on the result in and the goal powering it. Even if I failed, I was Ok with it.”