Jesse graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1965 with a Bachelor’s in physical education and health. After graduation he worked on campus as an instructor at the Peace Corps Training Site.
1960s-1970s In the late 1960s, Castañeda took up teaching and coaching at the Albuquerque Academy. Here he found his calling and has continued to teach and coach and motivate to this day. He taught Spanish at the Academy and in sports he coached handicapped kids, as well as coaching soccer, gymnastics, cross country, and track and field. Considered the father-founder of youth soccer in New Mexico, in 1972 he founded New Mexico’s first youth soccer program, Albuquerque’s Youth Soccer League. Starting with only six participants in the summer of 1972, the program grew to include more than 10,000 boys and girls throughout the state. In summers he returned to his hometown in Sonora to run a recreational camp for kids.
And as if Jesse weren’t busy enough, he also earned a master degree in Latin American affairs and Mexican history in 1970 from Jaime Balmes University in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
These too were the years when he set his sights on his personal athletic achievements. In 1972 he read about the British walker, Richard Crawshaw, who had recently set a world record of 255.8 miles for a nonstop walk. Castañeda, in his normal can-do fashion, knew then he wanted to break this mark.
In May 1972 he embarked on his dream of setting a record for nonstop walking, but on his first attempt he was forced to quit after only 78 miles, having developed 24 blisters and losing 16 pounds. He had to be taken to St. Joseph Hospital to recover.
On his third attempt on March 16, 1973, he set the world record for nonstop walking logging 302 miles in 102 hours and 59 minutes at the Albuquerque Academy track—a record that made it into the 1974 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records and stood for the next two years.
Castaneda recalled the mental challenges of breaking the record later in a Sports Illustrated article profiling his life:
Sometimes your mind gets tired, says, “It’s time to quit; why are you doing this?” Then I talk to myself in a loud voice. I say, “Hey! I’m going to make it somehow or another. I’m going to make it. I have the chispa.” That’s one of my favorite words; it means spark, like you use to build a fire. I’ve always had that little chispa in me. I’ve never quit. I’ve dropped but never quit.