I came away from this event inspired in so many levels that I wanted to share with everyone what a great event this is. This year was the 23rd running of the Memorial March. It was began in 1989 by the Army ROTC Department at NMSU to mark a page in history that included so many native sons and affected many families in the state. In brief, on April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Among those seized were the members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. They were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died in the 'Death March" and those that survived endured many hardships in the prisoner of war camps.
Participants entering the Bataan Memorial Death March may choose between two routes. The 26.2 mile Full route or a 14 mile route. I chose to participate in the full run and did the race with no backpack, as such I was designated as Civilian Light.
Pre Race Morning
I had been instructed to arrive early due to security and dutifully left the house at 0400 for the 40-45 min drive from West El Paso to the White Sands Missile Range. The expected nearly 7000 participants and this required remote parking and getting on a shuttle bus to the football field where the opening ceremony was held. They had us separated by category (civilian and military) as we waited for the start. The ceremony included the playing of Taps, the Star Spangled Banner, Special Forces soldiers landing on the field by parachute from a helicopter, and a flyover by 2 fighter jets. Prior to the start they fired some very loud cannons
It took a while before we walked to the timing mat but finally at 0720 AM, I crossed the timing mat and started the run. Initially we run on paved roads but soon we reached a jeep trail that was flat to a small downhill. The atmosphere is great from the beginning as I passed soldiers who were carrying 60 pound sacks marching and some from Ft Brag (Special Forces, I assume) who were running at a pretty good clip with their packs. I followed a walk/run strategy from mile 1. I ran for 1 mile and then walked for 0.1 of a mile paying close attention to keeping myself hydrated and fed.