The March 50k - A run to remember…and one I will remember.
More than just a trail race run in one of our nation’s greatest military communities, Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. The March is a first class event hosted by race director Veronica Johnson with help from Dan Paige. More than just another trail race, this event chooses to challenge runners while remembering America’s war heroes in a very special way.
From the Race Website: Say the phrase “Death March,” and most Americans respond with a single word: Bataan. When Japanese troops overran the Philippines in 1942, they forced thousands of GIs and Filipino soldiers to march across 60 miles of the Bataan Peninsula in tropical heat with little or no food and water. Hundreds of Americans and thousands of Filipinos died in the five-10 day trek that came to be called the Bataan Death March, one of the greatest atrocities ever perpetrated against American fighting men.
But there was another death march inflicted upon American POWs during World War II — a journey that stretched hundreds of miles and lasted nearly three months. It was an odyssey undertaken in the heart of a terrible German winter fraught with sickness, death and cruelty. Though experienced by thousands of GIs, it was all but forgotten by their countrymen. The events has been called various names: “The Great March West”, “The Long March”, “The Long Walk”, “The Long Trek”, “The Black March”, “The Bread March”, and “Death March Across Germany”, but most survivors just called it “The March”.
Veronica and her team matches up race entrants with survivors/or heroes who did not come home from these Marches of WWII. At packet pick up when I was handed my race bib chills went down my spine as I glanced over my race number and noticed my hero’s name. I would run the race in memory of PV2 Amos L. Burk a WWII prisoner of war who spent time in POW Camp Stalag 12. The fact we shared the same name touched me greatly and I would think about Amos often during the race.
The March 50k, really 32 miles because of some trail closures, I found to be a very challenging race. I would estimate that 60% of the trail was covered in a layer of fine sand. The miles run on soft sand although forgiving on the feet slowly sucked the energy right out of you. If I had to guess I would say it took roughly 30% more energy to run the same hard packed distance. When the sand was not challenging you, there were hills and then there where hills with sand. At the end of the day, and under a blanket of heat and humidity, I would run my second slowest 50k, 6 hours 18 minutes and 59 seconds.
As demanding as this race was, I highly recommend it. Veronica and her gang put on a great race. Rest assured the course will challenge you, the heat will stifle your will and the sand will zap your energy levels. All this pales compared to the challenges our POWs faced daily at the hands of their captures and for some the agonizing trek across Germany. For a brief 32 miles I felt linked to Amos and his gang of brothers who defended freedom and saved the world.