Wednesday, April 04, 2012

When Reality doesn't seem all that Real: A Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon Race Report

Two weekends ago was the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon, which I once again ran in memory of my high school football coach Joe Bob Tyler. Joe Bob grew up in north central Texas near the Oklahoma border. He, of course, lived a full life before I met him in 1982 and part of
that life involved fighting in Germany during World War II and being held in a German POW camp after capture at the Battle of the Buldge. After looking him up again online I learned that he passed away at the age of 86 on October 27th 2010.

I have run Bataan once before but it was the week after I ran my first 50-miler and though I felt great for miles 1 to about 16 the remaining miles quickly deteriorated into a painful slog to the finish. While that clearly does not compare to the real Bataan I guess at least it was appropriate. I think I finished the race in the ballpark of 4:50 but at present I’m too lazy to look up the results. Anyway, it was not a fast marathon.
Flash forward to this year, four years later, and you find a much fitter and more experienced Baboo. Oh, and a better rested one as well. While I have been piling on the miles and trained straight through Bataan that is still quite a bit different than running a 50-miler the weekend
prior. Anyway, race morning I was feeling pretty good as we hung around the soccer fields at the White Sands Missile Range watching the pre-race festivities.
I had two goals for the day, the first goal was to get a sub-4 hour finish. The second goal was to run easy even if that meant missing my first goal. The point of this race for me was twofold, a fitness test and a good solid training run. I did not want to waste myself trying to achieve some time or place goal and then have to take a lot of time off for recovery. By mile 5 I already had a feeling in my quads that I would not normally care to have in a marathon but I knew that was just the cumulative training miles and this was a training run so I was unconcerned. It took me a good 8 miles before I finally worked my way up past the hundreds of people who had a better starting position than I and once I got past these folks there were very few others in
sight. I knew if I ran well and was on target for a sub-4 finish I was going to be way out front among the top 20 or 30 runners.
What amazed me is that as far out front as I was running the people that I was starting to catch looked to be people that there is no way I should be able to catch. Despite the fact that
I know I have finally reached a weight that is “normal” for my height and that I will be running the Boston Marathon in about a week I still have this internal representation of myself as a slow fat guy. I’m not saying that I walk around feeling bad about myself, I don’t, what I am saying is that I am constantly surprised to find myself passing all these fit guys, these really light, muscular, super low body fat guys.
I have known other guys who started out in triathlon as Clydesdales, lost weight, and immediately changed their blog titles and/or affiliations and no longer labeled themselves as Clydesdales. Not me. It is true that I no longer meet the weight standard and I wouldn’t
think of registering as a Clydesdale at a race but in my mind I am and always will be a Clydesdale. I’ve been one for as long as I can remember, at least back to the second grade when I wasn’t
allowed to play Pop Warner Football because I was too big and might hurt the other kids.

Anyway, back to the race.

I was far enough up front that there were very few people left to pass but I managed to pick off a couple more including three really young guys who were walking and had obviously taken off like a rocket only to greatly over-estimate how far youthful vigor would take them. I like to think they initially tried to hang with my friend Ken Gordon, the eventual winner of the race, thinking “If this old dude can run this fast then we sure can.”
During the last four miles of the race I started going back and forth with a couple of guys but I was beginning to wear out as the day heated up and I could tell that to beat them I would have to violate my second goal of not trashing myself so I let them go and backed off a bit. That caused me to get passed by maybe one or two others but I was fine with that. I
ended up finishing the race in 3:49:01, a better time than I had even hoped. When I was thinking about a sub-4 I was hoping to squeak in just under the wire. I also placed 18th overall, which
is the highest I’ve ever placed in a marathon of this size.
All in all it was a good day. I had a good race and was back at my normal training routine after one day of rest. Coach Tyler was in the Army and though I’m also in the Army it’s still too new to me to know what we say to each other so I’ll fall back on my Marine Corps roots and say, Semper Fi Coach Tyler! As long as I and hundreds of other young men who had the honor to be coached by you live you will not be forgotten.


  1. Congratulations on a great race! What a good feeling.

    It's so funny that you wrote that about people dropping the Clydesdale title from their blogs, etc., because today when I opened your page I thought "I wonder if he'll ever change his name since he can't be a Clydesdale anymore". I totally know what you mean about still kind of having that inside of you. My weight isn't that much different than in high school, but I still carry the dorky, insecure me around with me, and there are times I'm shocked to look around myself and see the amazing group of people who count me as one of them.

  2. Congrats on a great time! I found your blog searching for the Bataan Marathon. I'm planning to run it next year as my first 26.2. I'm curious if you know what your mile split times were? I'm trying to make a race plan taking into account the uneven ground and change in elevations. Thanks!

    1. Miss Molly, I did try and find my splits, they should be in my Garmin Connect, but I wasn't successful. However, I can tell you that the first mile is a slight downhill followed by abot 4 miles of gentle rollers then about 8 miles of a steady, shallow climb followed by about 7 miles of going back downhill, mile of flat, mile of climb, 3 of flat and the last mile or so is up and flat. It's a tough course and you want to conserve your energy early. It also heats up a lot as the race progresses.

    2. Found it: