Foreword: This column is dedicated to my 8th grade math teacher, John Frazier. Mr. Frazier was a survivor of the Bataan Death March, something that he never spoke of but I’ll never forget.
Bataan Death March, 1942
During the Bataan Death March, American and Filipino prisoners were marched almost 80 miles to Camp O’Donnell. Starving soldiers were forced to march through the searing heat with little food, water or medical treatment. Those that were too weak, if they fell by the wayside and were either bayonetted, clubbed to death or even shot. On the Bataan Death March, approximately 64,000 of the 75,000 prisoners reached their destination. The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards. All told, approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell. The Japanese viewed the prisoners as cowards for surrendering, instead of fighting to the death, and showed them no mercy. (source, Once Upon A Time In War)
Omahan’s Mike Hardiman and Dale Drake will participate in the 27th annual Bataan Memorial Death March this coming March 25th. I had seen Mike and Dale training with full packs out at the dojo, was fascinated and curious, their stories follow in a short interview. Both are retired Marines and I am now glad to call them friends. Mike is still quite straight laced, as you’ll see Dale has a very good sense of humour.
“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.
Will: Most of our readers are probably too young to remember the Bataan Death March. Can you tell us what your connection to the event is? What drew you to become inspired to tackle it?
Mike: Our connection to the event is the the opportunity to meet true heroes from history as Marines this is important to us. Since meeting the Marines we met from Iwo Jima you see how special they are and how there are not many chances to meet these men. We have ran 12 full marathons and were also looking for a new challenge.
Dale: I would suggest that all of your readers spend a minute reading a bit of information on the Death March, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/bataandeathmarch.htm Truly hard to believe, amazing, horriffic, unimaginable. I have no real “connection” except that I have benefited greatly from the selfless sacrifices of these men in a time of great national need. I am a Marine and I wanted to honor the men who this race was started for as well as all those who have served, are serving and will serve. Mike talked me into wearing the pack. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I really hang out with him. I needed to do something different. Get a chance to see real historical figures, pay homage to them. They went through unimaginable hardship, we think this is a way to honor them, and those who serve. Its gonna be blast, a lot of fun and quite challanging.
Will: When and where is the race? Is it a standard 26.2 mile marathon?
Mike: Information on the web site and we will be running the full marathon in the civilian heavy class.
Dale: White Sand Missile Range, NM. It is in March, the windy season. Temps can reach 80F with 70 mile/hr winds and sand storms. Or, it can be 25F with the same wind. Most is paved roads or hard packed trails but several miles are in the desert sands. It is 26.2 miles, a fully certified marathon. We even get medals and tee shirts!
Will: How many participants do you expect. Is the run a fundraiser or is it used simply as a reminder of the hell those prisoners went through?
Mike: We are running race as a memorial to the survivors.
Dale: I am not sure how many folks participate in the race, but last year there were 3028 total for civilian and military including 689 for the heavy catagory. Not sure if any funds are raised, but food used in the packs for weight is usually donated to the local shelter after the race. Mostly it is for remembering and honoring the local survivors from the Bataan Death March.
Will: I’ve been seeing you guys training out around Zorinski. It is pretty amazing to see you carrying those packs. What can you tell us about those?
Mike: The packs are Camel Bak brand from their tactical gear line and we chose them since we read that other people had used the same model.
Dale: It is a pretty tough CamelBak device, Mike found them on the on internet, got one, showed it to me and I knew I was screwed. So I had to buy one. Pretty nice packs, I have lots of stuff in there. There is 32 pounds of rice, three ten pound bags, one two pound bag, the packs weigh 4 pounds each, the race requires minimum of 35 to run the race so I have the minimum to train. Then I put in about 50oz of water in the 100oz hydro pak in the back which adds a few more pounds. There are also cilff bars, gu, extra clothes, cellphone, car keys, some other BS; you know, the usual stuff eveyone carries with them on a long run, right? I reckon that the pack weighs near 40 pounds plus or minus. I hope to keep it a bit lighter for the actual race. I am sure I will not need all of the extra winter gear for the desert.
Will: How many times have you attempted or completed this grueling run? Do you have a circle of comrades that reunite annually? Are there any other Omahans doing the run?
Mike: This will be our first time attempting the run.
Dale: This our first time doing this race, I have run a dozen marathons since I started about 7 years ago as has Mike. The Marine Corps Marathon was my first, naturally. Semper Fi. After I ran my first race, Mike’s wife started badgering him to run one. (I think it was just to get him out of the house for a little while, but don’t tell him I said that). Funny thing, she started training and ran as well. They also ran the Marine Corps as their first race. I have a few friends from my time in the Corps, Mike, his wife Penny and another friend in Virginia. The only other person I know of running the Bataan Memorial trains at the lake as well, his name is Tom, I do not know his last name. He is running a “regular” race with no pack. He is smarter than we are I think.
Will: How many miles of training do you estimate you’ll have carrying those packs? Are there any lessons you have learned about yourself while undergoing such strenuous training?
Mike: I will have about 350 miles training with the pack. Lesson I’ve learned is wondering if I’m not too bright to be attempting this race.
Dale: Not Enough! All of my runs except one, up to now have had the pack. All of them until the race will have it. I try to get 6 miles at least when I train on the daily runs, I just don’t have the time to run more during the week. Just one of thousands of excuses I tell myself, and still believe! I have learned that I am good at sales. I can sell myself on not training so I have to be good right? I have also learned that hanging out with the same people for 40 years might just be a bit too long. I have to get out more and find some new friends, you know, guys who like to fish, drink excessively, maybe do both at the same time! Please send new friend resumes in care of Will. Plus, I am way slower than I normally am. And trust me, that is really slow. I think fast walkers pass me while I am out there, I can’t be too sure because I can’t see though the tears of self-pity nor hear them though my whining and gnashing of teeth. And Mike is way faster then I am. With or without the packs.
Will: What specific preparations do you need to make to engage in such training? Nutritionally? Physically (i.e. strength training etc.)
Mike: I gradually built up the weight in the pack and since the Tulsa marathon in November I have had the pack on for every run. I don’t do any additional strength training. Nutritionally I just keep track of my calories and to keep off the winter weight and to keep the pounds in the pack and not on me.
Dale: Its all mental, if we think about it too much we really question our sanity, but we should probably do that, dont you think? We are carrying 40+ pound back packs, running in really big circles around an empty lake, in the winter. In Omaha. With lycra tights on. I am on the seefood diet. I see food and I eat it. I have no self control over food. I love food, I like to cook it, shop for it, read about it, watch TV shows about it, and well, you know, eat it. I’m the guy who makes Pralined Bacon. Which is to die for, I am telling you! I have made an effort to decrease my intake, so far it is slow going. Besides doing fork lifts I also ride my bike on its trainer and lift weights when I have talked myself out of running. And between running days of course.
Will: Can our readers track your progress the morning of the race? Is there a website that we can go to for results?
Mike: I do not see any place to track the race but we can email how we do to Will.
Dale: I do not know that for sure, I cannot find anything. I would guess no as it is an active US Military base we are running on. Here is the web site: http://www.bataanmarch.com/ The results will be posted soon after the completion of the race. Mike and I will take some photos and send them to you to post on your blog if you like.
Will: Do you have any goals other than completing the run?
Mike: I would guess it is hard to set a time goal for an event like this? My goals are to survive the run ,shake the hand of any Bataan survivor who attends and of course to beat Dale.
Dale: You know, I do not want to be last, I do not want to get injured and/or DNF and I am hoping to get it done in under seven hours. The big sand pit is the big unknown. From what I can tell, some folks are out there for almost 13 hours. If I’m doing that I want to be in an Ultra. Ooh, thats a good idea. Ultra. Dont you just love the sound of that? Trail Ultra, say it with me – Trail Ultra. Sounds sweet.
Will: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Mike: We have been friends for 40 years and after the Marine Corps.,12 marathons, 500 mile bike ride in the Rockies, and now this race I wonder what is next or maybe I should find someone else to hang out with or I’ll give it another 40.
Dale: Dont be afraid to push the envelope. Mike and I have known each other for 40 years so we are closer to the end then the beginning and don’t plan on stopping. Heck, its all good in the ‘hood. We have all sorts of crazy ideas in the hopper, Mike has this cool one month long run in Spain on the distant, future run list. New York is coming up in the fall, I really want to get a PR. No. I am not telling you my goal, all you people are really fast, light weight gazalles and my goal would make all of you cringe and double over with laughter. We also have BRAN to contend with this year and some other epic ride next year. Maybe Ride the Rockies again but this time on Harleys! I am thinking Ultra and triathalon sometime. But most likely Ultra because I sink like a stone in the water, do you think they would let me wear scuba gear?
Mike Hardiman and Dale Drake.
These 40 pound packs have been part of their training kit, will symbolize just a small part of the hardships, and the contents will go to feed the less fortunate in New Mexico.
Mike & Dale, We Salute You!