When Prince Harry asks you to run back-to-back marathons, you run

The Royal Foundation
Prince Harry (right) brought Karl Hinett and Ivan Castro (middle) together in London.

Ivan Castro, a decorated Army veteran, is pretty tight with Prince Harry, he of the Royal Family.

They’ve hung out together, trekked to the South Pole together, worked to help veterans together.

So when Prince Harry told Castro he had an idea to raise money for and awareness of the invisible wounds of war, Castro was all in.


All Castro had to do was run 52 miles, half of it in Boston, the other half in London. To keep Castro company, Prince Harry teamed him up with Karl Hinett, a British army veteran.

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Castro and Hinett will run the Boston Marathon side-by-side on Monday, then get on a plane and run the London Marathon side-by-side six days later.

Castro and Hinett embody the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, a relationship that often sees them sharing the same battlefield. Castro and Hinett were badly wounded in separate battles while serving in Iraq. Castro was blinded by a mortar shell that killed two soldiers under his command. Hinett was 19 years old when he was hit with a firebomb while trying to rescue other soldiers. He was burned over 40 percent of his body.

Between them, they’ve spent more than 100 hours on the operating table, enduring countless surgeries, more than a year in the hospital.

More extraordinary, they have run a combined 200 marathons since they almost died on the battlefield. Castro’s the slacker. He’s run 50. When Hinett runs Boston for the first time on Monday, it will mark his 150th marathon in ten years.


Running became the road both men took back from horrific injuries of war.

Ivan Castro was lying in a hospital bed when he heard a couple of doctors talking about an upcoming Marine Corps marathon. It took him a year of intense training, but he did it, running with a guide to serve as his eyes.

Castro has run the Boston Marathon almost every year since he got out of his hospital bed. He was on Hereford Street, about to turn onto Boylston Street for the final stretch, when the bombs went off in 2013.

“Running Boston was always special,” Castro said. “But after the bombings, it took on a deeper meaning.”

It is not lost on Hinett that the same ideology that almost killed him and Castro left civilians dead and broken on Boylston Street four years ago and in London three weeks ago.


“I ran the London Marathon the week after Boston was attacked,” he said. “The solidarity was amazing. The attack did not deter people from running London. Just the opposite.”

Together, they will run London in a city still shaken from a terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge that went right to the gates of Parliament. People in London and Boston share more than marathons.

Castro and Hinett met in London last fall, when Prince Harry brought them together for a panel aimed at lessening the stigma surrounding mental health care, especially in the military.

“We’re very different,” Hinett told me. “Ivan had a very distinguished military career even before he was injured. My career was much shorter. But there’s a brotherhood, that mutual respect.”

Like many runners in Boston, Castro and Hinett are running to raise money for a charity, in this case, Home Base, the program run by the Boston Red Sox and Massachusetts General Hospital that treats veterans and their families for the invisible wounds of war, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. When they run in London, the money will go to a program that treats veterans in the UK.

Castro, 49, retired in November after 28 years of service. He was the only blind active duty Special Forces officer in the Army.

Prince Harry served as a soldier in Afghanistan and has become a champion for wounded warriors. When he came calling, Castro couldn’t say no.

“I don’t think of him as a prince,” Ivan Castro said. “I think of him as a brother.”

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at