About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bataan Memorial Death March 2013


We're 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.
Nobody gives a damn.

—Frank Hewlett (WWII War Correspondent)


So goes the poem that represents the Bataan Death March of April 1942. Following a four month battle in the Philippines, where US forces surrendered to the Japanese, thousands of US and Filipino soldiers were taken as POWs including almost the entire New Mexico National Guard (1800). Hundreds were marched over 60 miles through the sweltering jungle with little food or water. Any man who lagged behind or tried to stop for a drink was shot, tortured or left on the road to die. 



When they arrived at Camp O’Donnell, soldiers endured unbearable conditions. They had little clean water or food, no medical supplies and poor sanitation. Exact numbers on the death toll in the camps are unknown as no records were kept, but it is estimated that 400 per day died of disease. After eight months prisoners were moved to other camps, but about two thirds of the US soldiers had died before the end of the war.


This morning almost six thousand Bataan Memorial Death March participants are massed on a field at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to let 13 survivors of the original march know that we certainly do give a damn. We are here to remember the lost and to honor the survivors by marching with packs or running a 26 or 14 mile course through the desert and Organ Mountains. I have opted for the 26 mile “easy” category of running without pack (Civilian Light).


Following an emotional ceremony, marchers are led out of their corrals and paraded to the start line by a drum and bagpipe band; today is St Patrick’s Day after all. I watch as various teams pass by and am most moved by the wounded warriors, many with prosthetic limbs, who will complete the march.


Once out of my corral, I see a friend who I begin the run with. We pass groups of marchers as we run through the main part of the base. The sun illuminates the mountains that surround the area and starts to warm the air a bit. Nevertheless, I’m feeling a little lethargic; I’m usually not warmed up for at least the first five miles of a race. I think to myself, I could use more cowbell. About this time, I hear a cowbell in the distance and see a Will Ferrell look-a-like, beer belly exposed, banging on a cowbell. Now I’m motivated.

I need more cowbell
Pretty soon we make it onto a smooth dirt road where I feel more at home. Runners are everywhere and we continue to pass people. One advantage of running this race is that you are never alone and you take in all sorts of astonishing sights. Tiny young ladies carrying heavy packs, wounded soldiers with carbon-fibre spring legs,  elderly with trekking poles, ROTC teams, individuals wearing pictures of relatives on their backs, couples holding hands, children, heroes carry flags, not to mention soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Everyone is on a mission and has their own special reason for running or marching. Morale is high.


Sgt Noah Galloway
Read about Sgt Noah Galloway here: Noahgalloway.com


At about mile 7 I leave my friend, who is doing the 14 mile route, and turn onto a paved road. A 1300 foot climb awaits me so I dig deep and settle into a slow and steady jog. I continue to pass people on the hill and then come to a medical staging area where cheering volunteers line the road. I feel like a rock star, but just grab a quick drink and keep toiling up the hill. After some time I come to an important looking military gate with a sign that reads “Caution Laser Area”. Hmmmm...death march? Better run fast through this part. 



I turn onto a dirt road where the scenery is absolutely amazing. I pass the ranch of Pat Garrett, the sheriff who killed Billy the Kid and then, when I finally reach the top, the Organ Mountains come into view. Now I speed down the hill and into an aid station and medical camp that looks just like something out of the show M*A*S*H. (Do you remember when TV was actually pretty good?)

M*A*S*H

Once out of the aid station, I keep up a pretty good pace, minus some sight seeing and picture taking, and then happen upon a few more of my running amigos. I pass another abandoned homestead and finally make it back to the paved road that I came up earlier. Thousands of marchers are still coming up and I feel for them. What’s harder: running 26 miles and finishing before the heat of the day or marching for 8-13 hours with a 35 pound pack on your back? What determination!



Eventually I make it to the confluence of the two routes where I begin to run with many of the 14 mile marchers. I seem to be closing in on the finish but then, at mile 20, reach the dreaded sandpit. I slog through the sand and up a slight incline alternating between a jog and a walk until I clear the obstacle. I’m feeling surprisingly energetic and run most of the last several miles. 


I cross the finish line at about the 4:40 mark and have the privilege of shaking hands with some of the survivors of the original march. This is a very emotional event that I hope to run every year.  I highly recommend that you participate in this march before the last survivors are gone. You won’t regret it. 



See you on the trail.

Maddie, future Bataan marcher

3 comments:

  1. Good for you - nicely done. What an experience and great photos too.

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  2. Good article, inspiring yet humbling.

    From the P.I.
    Bryan

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  3. Thanks folks for reading my report!

    ReplyDelete