“We are the battling bastards of Bataan,
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam;
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces;
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces;
And nobody gives a damn.”
I am in awe… of the event, the weather, the volunteers, the survivors who were present, the Wounded Warriors running or rucking… the entire event was so well organized and planned. Of course, they’ve had 23 years to get it down.
If you remember correctly, the Bataan Death March was a forced march of tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers during World War II. Soldiers were mistreated, starved, abused and killed point-blank during the 80-mile trek. The Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico is a 26.2 or 15.2 course through sand, dirt, wind, desert and mountains.
When I found out Aaron had orders to Ft. Bliss, one of the first things I did, naturally, was look up races. I knew I wanted to do this one, but I also knew it would be completely different than a race like the Illinois Marathon. We both wanted to do the full 26.2 distance, but Aaron wanted to be a part of the military heavy category, which wears a full uniform and carries a ruck of at least 35 pounds (his ended up being 52. Crazy crazy man).
We trained by running up and down McKelligon Canyon and also Transmountain Road. My running training fell apart, but I still had a half marathon, a 16-miler and a 10-miler under my belt going into this race. Not ideal, but I knew physically I could do it.
I ran the first seven miles or so, walked until mile 16 when I was texting back and forth a little with Gabi and she must have prayed because I ran an incredible mile! I felt like I was in Runner’s World’s Rave Run. Then I walked the rest of the course.
It was rough. There were some paved parts, but most of it was packed dirt and loose sand. There is a “sand pit” around mile 21 that’s 3/4 of a mile long… sand that gets everywhere! I stopped to dump out my shoes at least three times.
I stopped at every water stop and got water or Gatorade and an orange or banana piece. My stomach was not agreeing with me today as every time I ate it would cramp up and I’d get side aches. However, I knew that if I didn’t eat or drink I wouldn’t have the energy to finish.
My quads and hip flexors were very sore, which is why I stopped running and stuck to walking most of it. Normally in a 26.2 race, a walker as slow as I was at the end would be at the end of the pack, but I think I was right in the middle. I finished in about 7:45 clock time. The website shows I finished in 8:26, which is not correct because Aaron finished in 8:23 and I finished about 40 minutes ahead of him… so I’m guessing it’s supposed to be 7:26-7:30.
The last few miles were rough for me emotionally. I’ve never lost a soldier who’s been close to me, but I have a few friends who have so I thought about them and all they’ve been through. And I saw a couple memorials attached to rucks that commemorated the marcher’s grandpa, one of whom was a Japan war camp survivor. I had to calm myself down because I got very emotional.
I’ve done a lot of races, but I’ve never seen a community of volunteers like I did today. They were so helpful, encouraging (which was good because no spectators were allowed on the course!) and dedicated. I think two of the greatest things to be meshed are running and the military… I really felt like I was running (walking… or moving…) for a cause. My grandpa is a Korean vet, my great-grandpa is a World War II vet, and my husband is currently serving.
We marched about a third of what the real Bataan marchers had to go through, and we weren’t tortured and bayonetted… I just cannot fathom how they got through it aside from gritting their teeth and relying on the grace of God. There were amputees, some double amputees running or walking today. The soldiers in full uniform carrying rucks were amazing as well. I was utterly humbled today. Utterly. I am so thankful I was able to finish and that I wasn’t injured along the way.
I’m not sure I’ll run (or… move…) it again next year, but I would be ecstatic to volunteer. Or….. I could find four ladies who are just as crazy as I am a form a team. If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted pictures, it’s because I just ran (or walked.. or moved…) 26.2 miles and I’m sore. And hobbling. Check them out here.