Overall Rating
Overall Rating (5 Reviews)
4.6
(5 Ratings)(5 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
4
SCENERY
3.4
PRODUCTION
4.4
SWAG
2.8
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging march through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range, conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives.
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Recent reviews

    M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '18

    BOTTOM LINE: Are you a traveling runner in search of a uniquely inspiring (and patriotic) race experience? Or a 50 States runner looking for more than the usual race weekend … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: Are you a traveling runner in search of a uniquely inspiring (and patriotic) race experience? Or a 50 States runner looking for more than the usual race weekend of “fly in, collect t-shirt and medal, fly out”? Or maybe a recreational hiker looking to experience history through the eyes of those who lived it? All three opportunities await you on the White Sands Missile Range in the high desert of Southern New Mexico.

    Bataan is a race with a purpose, and the marathon itself feels almost anticlimactic in the grand scheme of the weekend. In the words of one of the officers who spoke at the Opening Ceremony, race weekend is an opportunity “to honor the heroes of Bataan in a living history lesson.” If you aren’t familiar with the history of the event, I’d suggest you check out the race website (or my blog post) for details.

    This year, the 76th anniversary of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II, seven survivors remained on the Symbolic Roll Call. With each of them approaching or exceeding 100 years of age, soon there will be none. Bataan will always be a special event for what it represents and what it honors, but being able to hear one survivor tell his story and to shake another’s hand at the finish line was incredibly special. And I’d urge any runner reading this to register for next year’s race while there are still Bataan survivors among us. Survivors like centenarian Ben Skardon of South Carolina, who shared an extraordinary narrative of the horrors and humanity he experienced as a POW, forced by his Japanese captors to march 69 miles over five days in tropical heat of 110°F. Along the way, with the help of his fellow POWs he conquered hunger and disease without ever giving up hope. And yet years later, he was able to visit Japan as a free man who harbored no ill will toward his former captors or the Japanese people. That feels like heroism to me.

    In a country and a time when few of us will ever be asked to make any real sacrifices in our lives, Bataan is an opportunity to pay our respects to those who did and to whom we owe the freedom and the comfortable lifestyle we readily take for granted.

    And speaking of comfort, one suggestion for race day: you don’t necessarily need trail shoes (the course is ~25% asphalt, ~75% dirt/sand), but do consider wearing gaiters to prevent any sand or small rocks from finding their way into your shoes and forcing you to either run in discomfort or stop to shake out your shoes along the course.

    The upshot? Road shoes, trail shoes, marching boots or bare feet, it doesn’t matter — run/march Bataan and do it soon, before our nation’s last living connections to World War II are gone forever.

    PRODUCTION: Throw out the first two miles, and the weekend ran with almost military precision. The most conspicuous race-day error was an apparent lack of signage in mile 2, resulting in a wrong turn that led hundreds of runners astray and added ~1.6 miles to my own total. Had this been most other races the fallout might have been loud and belligerent, but Bataan isn’t most other races — no one is there to set a personal best or qualify for Boston, and so instead I congratulated myself on my 4:34 finish in the inaugurual Bataan Memorial Death March Ultramarathon.

    A couple of other race-day suggestions: 1) increase the number of porta-potties at the start, and especially if the event continues to increase its participant cap as it did this year with a record 8,460 marchers — unable or unwilling to fight the call of nature, many military personnel and civilians (like me) experienced the Opening Ceremony from our place in the long porta-potty lines; 2) create an actual start arch, or at least add clear signage to the existing “arch” (i.e. first timing station) to give runners and marchers a better sense for the start line.

    Based on my Garmin the 26.2 miles of the official course were well measured, and after missing the first three mile markers due to the crowds, I saw every marker from mile 4 on. On the dirt portions once the runners spread out, there were a couple of side roads and potential detours off the main trail that could have been more clearly marked as “Wrong Way,” but even my own questionable sense of direction didn’t lead me down any of them.

    Every one of the 2,000 volunteers, comprising both civilian and military personnel, was amazing. With 100% focus on the marchers and their needs, there was no drama and no distractions. I never had to waste valuable energy guessing who had water and who had Gatorade — that was made clear as I approached each aid station. A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the volunteers whose selfless hard work made Bataan weekend in White Sands a huge success.

    As usual my appetite abandoned me after the race, despite an impressive selection of post-race food. The organizers did a nice job of refueling their marchers, offering all participants an entrée (including hot dogs and veggie burgers) plus three side dishes and a drink, with soft drinks and canned beer available. It all added up to one of the better post-race spreads I’ve seen at a marathon.

    One last recommendation for the organizers would be to post the 6½-minute high-speed course video — shown on a loop at the expo — on the race website, to give all prospective runners a better sense for the terrain. (See video link on this race page.) I knew to expect hot dry weather on race day, so course layout and terrain were the biggest wild cards. And preparation is the cornerstone of a good soldier!

    SWAG: Nobody runs Bataan for the swag, and in fact it almost feels like an afterthought with all runners/marchers receiving their swag in a reusable goodie bag before the race. And though I missed the pomp and circumstance of receiving a medal after crossing the finish, thumbs up to the organizers for the appropriate choice of dog tags rather than finisher medals. (The only problem with dog tags is they’re relatively small and, when hung on a wall alongside larger finisher medals, easily overshadowed.) Another cool touch would have been for the event to offer engraving services (e.g. name and finish time) à la actual dog tags at the post-race festival. At any rate, the dog tags are definitely one of my more unique and memorable pieces of swag.

    Sadly I can’t say the same for the shirt, a neon green Gildan cotton tee with “bataan” printed in thin, unimpressive blue letters on the front and which I can’t see myself wearing among my collection of race tees.

    Along with their bib number all marchers received a full-color “Certificate of Participation,” which the WSMR Arts & Crafts Center would custom frame — along with your dog tags and challenge coin — for $65 at the expo/In-Processing while you waited. This service wasn’t available at the post-race festival, so if you’re interested in a cool keepsake you should jump on this opportunity before the race.

    For more details of an amazing White Sands weekend, check out my blog post at: http://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2018/04/17/bataan-memorial-death-march-race-report

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    My Report
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    3
    My Media

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    CSohaskey FIRST-TIMER '18

    This race is not as difficult as the name makes it sound. The “Death March” part of it is in reference to the Bataan Death March from World War II … MORE

    This race is not as difficult as the name makes it sound. The “Death March” part of it is in reference to the Bataan Death March from World War II that this race is a memorial to. The actual marathon course in the White Sand Missile Range is tough, but no death march.
    One of the cool things about the race is the history involved. The few remaining survivors from the Bataan death march give talks at packet pickup, and are present before the race at the opening ceremony, and then after the race. Many of the people who do this race/march carrying a 35 lb pack the whole way.
    The race course is roughly a figure eight with the 14 mile march consisting of the bottom loop and the marathon continuing on to do the top loop also. The race starts on a paved road and there are several miles in the middle that are paved, but most of it is on a dirt fire road. The road is not rocky but there was long stretches of soft sand which certainly slows one down. In fact around mile 20 there is a stretch of about half a mile of soft sand and pebbles. I didn’t have gators so I had to stop and dump all the rocks out of my shoes.
    There is only one hill that really matters. It starts on one of the paved section and then continues when you get back on the dirt road. It peaks around mile 14. There is a decline after that but also some bumps here and there.
    This year there was some confusion of the location of the actual starting line, and some minor direction issues and we ran an extra 1.5 miles at the start.
    . But other than that it was a well organized race. The support stations had either water or Gatorade as well as fruit. If you want spectators this is probably not the race for you. But if you like the desert you will love this race.
    The T shirt was a nice cotton shirt which only said “Bataan” on it. I would have liked to see at least ‘marathon’ on there too. The medal was a dog tag they give you before the run which is also nondescript. Being able to talk to the survivors at the finish line was awesome. And the race provided a very good lunch also.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    3
    My Media

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    RunnerMeg FIRST-TIMER '12

    I did this event with fellow veterans as part of a "heavy" team (rucked in uniform, carrying 40+ pounds of weight...you must carry 35 lbs not including water or any … MORE

    I did this event with fellow veterans as part of a “heavy” team (rucked in uniform, carrying 40+ pounds of weight…you must carry 35 lbs not including water or any additional gear, and a gas mask). It’s a difficult event in the high desert, sandy, usually quite warm, perhaps windy, and sunny. Many people run it like any other marathon but it’s definitely not a “PR” course. It is entirely worth doing, and the sooner the better. There is a dwindling number of surviving Bataan Death March service members, and several of them are at this event. In 2012, many of them participated in the shorter distance events. You don’t do this event for the swag or the bling; in fact we got the dog tag “medal” before the race. It’s one of those marathons that’s worth doing for the sake of what it represents and those you meet along the course.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    2

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    FLTLBrun FIRST-TIMER '09

    A challenging but inspirational event steeped in the history of WWII and the Battle of Bataan. This event is run entirely on the White Sands Missile Range. In 2009 (the … MORE

    A challenging but inspirational event steeped in the history of WWII and the Battle of Bataan. This event is run entirely on the White Sands Missile Range. In 2009 (the year I ran it) there were 15 survivors in attendance. The day prior to the race, after packet pickup the participants could wander through the education center and sit in one of the many classrooms to hear one of the survivors speak about their experience in the Battle of Bataan. I must have slept through this lesson in history class because I had no idea of the extreme torture our troops endured in the Philippines.

    On the morning of the race as the runners are assembled there is a moving tribute to those who died. Just prior to the start is a military flyover which makes the ground shake. The survivors who are in attendance are seated near the starting line and make a point to shake everyone’s hand. They are also at the 15 mile mark and at the finish line to thank the runners for remembering them. As this event pays tribute to the challenges in the battle, the course itself is a challenge including hills and heat and sand. In fact, there is a two mile stretch at the 19 mile mark which is uphill in ankle deep sand! The race is well supported with adequate aid stations.

    There are several categories of runners. Military light or heavy; civilian light or heavy; and as a team. The heavy designation requires you run with a 35 pound pack on your back. The military categories require full military dress including boots.

    There is no time limit.

    This is one of the most difficult races I have run but it is one of the most emotionally and intellectually rewarding experiences you will ever have.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    3

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    amylavender FIRST-TIMER '13

    The Bataan Memorial Death March is a great, well-organized race honoring our military. The course runs entirely on a military base in Southern New Mexico. The majority of participants are … MORE

    The Bataan Memorial Death March is a great, well-organized race honoring our military. The course runs entirely on a military base in Southern New Mexico. The majority of participants are military, and many run in full gear with a rucksack which makes for a very inspiring field. Civilian runners start the race last, behind military participants, so this isn’t the best race for personal bests. However, surviving veterans of the Battle of Bataan during WWII greet runners with a handshake before the race starts, making this one of the most memorable race experiences available. Most of the course is on loose sand, and hot, dry temperatures and afternoon winds are almost guaranteed in this part of the desert, so stay hydrated and be prepared for sun and dust. Hotel rooms sell out fast in the nearest town of Las Cruces, so make reservations early.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    My Report
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    3
    My Media

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