In 1942, about 80,000 American and Phillipino prisoners of war were forced to relocate 60+ miles through the jungles of Bataan by their Japanese captors. Carried out over 5 days, this march would eventually claim more than 10,000 lives.
Among the troops being forcibly moved were 1,800 soldiers from New Mexico. Out of that number, only 987 survived what would eventually be renamed as the “Bataan Death March.”
Every April, an event is run in Southern New Mexico to honor those soldiers. Running 26 miles through the White Sands Missile Range, the event is known as the Bataan Memorial Death March. This year over 7,000 hardy souls participated in this grueling event.
In 2020 my brother and I will be among them.
An Idea Gone Astray
A few months back I mentioned to my brother that Lor and I would be doing our first ever 5K this May. He was appropriately excited about our participation, being a lifelong fitness buff. A few weeks later, he called me. The conversation went something like this:
“Dude! You guys are doing that 5 K in May, right?”
“Yeah, why do you ask?”
“Because I have a great idea! You and I should do the Bataan Death March event in 2020!”
Silence. I may or may not have dropped the phone when I passed out.
Now, it is important to establish something here. My brother has already done this event once, in his twenties. I, as you know, have never walked, run, swam, or crawled a marathon-length course in my life.
Is Half A Century Long Enough?
2020 is also significant for a very specific reason. It is the year he and I both turn 50.
Now, the question is two-fold. First, is 3 years enough time to train for an event like this?
Secondly, will I be able to hack this at 50 years old?
As it is, I am having serious trouble these days just getting in my 3.1 miles every day in support of an event coming up in only 2 months. To train for this event in 2020 I will have to be able to increase that distance literally 10 times. And my training is taking place in a nice, comfortable, air-conditioned gym. The Memorial this year took place in 80+ degree weather with no cloud cover. (Southern New Mexico, remember?)
To say I have some grave reservations would be an understatement.
A Memorial and a Celebration
But, the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me.
My personal war hero was my grandfather, who was part of the “Greatest Generation.” He served in the Pacific Theater in World War 2, though (thankfully) he was not part of the Bataan Death March. What an awesome tribute it would be to be able to complete this event in his honor.
Also, the fact is that I was not even supposed to be around in 2020. In 2004, during the worst part of my seizure activity, I was informed by a neurologist that I would “most likely not make it to 50.” Uncontrolled temporal lobe seizures have a depressingly high mortality rate.
I am turning 47 in 3 months, and have no immediate plans for departure. Being able to participate in an event like this during the year I was not supposed to reach would be an awesome slap in the face of my disability. And to that idiot neurologist as well.
Accordingly, my brother and I reached our accord this weekend. We would both begin training for this event taking placing only 3 short years from now. It warms my heart to be able to think about participating in an event with him.
Because now I know I will have someone to carry me to the finish line when I collapse from heat stroke.
I HAD Been Looking Forward To 50,