Ralph Fernandez de Castro is a Miami born and raised marathon runner who has motivated and inspired hundreds of people in the community to put on their running shoes. The 45 year old is a husband, father of three, salesman, and now a coach. But not just a running coach; he is an inspirational voice in the runner’s community. His energy, wisdom, compassion, and humility are qualities he might be quick to dismiss but his impact is undeniable.
Ralph grew up playing sports and knew that staying active was going to be a permanent part of his life. In 2006/2007, he told himself that he was going to run a marathon before he turned 40. It was a random idea that he “just threw out there” at the time. However, what initially started off as a thought, would turn into a platform of empowerment for the hundreds of people that were about to enter his life.
Ralph decided that he wanted to make his first
marathon mean something. He joined a group that runs for the
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and trained with them to
run the Disney Marathon.
When they finished the training, several of the coaches recommended that he take a coaching certification course. Not only did they see his potential, but several group members already thought Ralph was a coach because he was always motivating them. After successfully running the Disney marathon, Ralph took the course and became an official coach. However, he had some self doubt. He wasn’t sure how good of a coach he would be. So rather than go back to the team he trained with, Ralph decided to start off by training a small group of about 15 family and friends. They were having such a great time that they quickly spread the word.
By the end of that training season, the group had grown to more than 45 people; all that ran the 2009 ING Miami Marathon. Ralph used that moment to remind everyone (including himself) that you should never doubt what you are capable of doing. “One of the biggest things that we fight within ourselves is the voices of self doubt,” said Ralph.
The following year around 200 people of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes, joined the group. The rapid growth demanded that they become more formalized. One person affectionately suggested that the team be named after its founder and thus became Team FDC; FDC for Ralph’s initials. Ralph’s humbleness would have preferred something else and that became the basis of an inside joke. Today if someone asked what FDC stood for, the response might jokingly be “Fuera de Control” or out of control in Spanish.
Today, there are more than 500 people registered with Team FDC. They have an official website, Facebook page, and Baptist Hospital as a sponsor. Gone are the days when Ralph used his own money to provide runners with water. The team has come a long way in just a few years but the message has been the same: never doubt what you are capable of. This journey has brought Ralph a lot of fulfillment. He has witnessed lives transform right before his eyes and now understands that Team FDC isn’t just about running.
It’s a journey of evolution and empowerment. It’s a group of people supporting, encouraging, and pushing each other to their greatest potentials. Together they have mourned the loss of members, celebrated achievements, and built a community of caring.