Close Encounters of the Cattle Kind – Bataan Memorial Death March, Part 1

And now, in a completely ass backwards way of doing things, here is part 1 of my weekend in New Mexico.

When the weekend of my trip to New Mexico rolled around, I was almost dreading what was in store. Having been sick since that Tuesday but unable to take off work because of the amount of stuff I had to do in the office, I was feeling progressively worse as the days went on. A normal person might think that the logical conclusion would be not to go to New Mexico, but as we have established, I am not normal. Besides, tell me when the last time was that you paid $450 for a plane ticket and then didn’t go because you were sick? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

I arrived in El Paso at about 10:30 pm local time, which was 12:30 am my time. AKA about 2.5 hours past my bedtime and well on the way to a very cranky T-Rex. Oh, and that sickness I was dealing with? It had now been made substantially worse thanks to the slore sitting next to me on the airplane wearing at least 1-2 gallons of the world’s most hateful perfume. I zombie-walked off the plane and went to greet Fawn and Brian, who were faring much better than me and were not nearly as snarky. I just wanted to get in the car and go to sleep. They wanted to go to a restaurant and eat burgers. So that’s what we did.

p1000267-3All told, we arrived at Brian’s house around 1:00 am, or 3:00 am my time. T-Rex does not do 3 am. Fawn tried to point out how beautiful the stars in New Mexico are, but I literally couldn’t see straight so I couldn’t possibly have cared less. I laid down on the couch and fell asleep around 1:30. I keep talking about the time because I was so tired it was all I could think about.

Naturally, I woke up promptly the next morning at 6 am after 4 hours of sleep. I spent a lot of time thinking about how cool Brian’s apartment is. It’s exceptionally well decorated – especially for a guy, as Fawn pointed out – but regardless of gender, everything in there is just cool. It’s all interesting stuff from different cultures and around the world, but not like in a cheesy way like stuff from World Market (yeah, I know there’s a ton of stuff from World Market in my house). Eventually I got out of bed and decided to go for a short run to see how I was feeling, what the altitude would be like, and how annoying my sunglasses would be if I wore them during the race.

p1000261-3The scenery was incredible and you could see for miles. That’s one of the nice things about having trees – there’s a much broader view. From Brian’s house, you could pretty much see all of Las Cruces in the valley below. I didn’t know where to go, so I just ran straight down the road for my allotted time, then turned around and ran straight back. Interestingly, I encountered a cow. As in cattle. As in dinner roaming across the road. Apparently fences are more like a guideline in New Mexico, so cattle just roam around. It was kind of cool, but there was a 50-50 chance it was going to trample me, so I kept running.

p1000263-3Upon arriving back at the house, I showered and we headed off to the expo, which was really a fancy name for packet pick up and military recruiting situation. I had been warned to get there early because of the long lines, so I wanted to go in the morning. Long lines were right! The line was a single file situation and extended out the door and well into the parking lot. It only got longer as the day went on.

p1000266-3Maybe I should take this time to tell you a little bit about the race and why it was so critical that I go. The Bataan Memorial Death March is an event that commemorates a group of American and Filipino soldiers that were surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 in Bataan on the Phillipines. Thousands of them were forced to march over 100 miles in the hot jungle with no food or water. Those who collapsed or slowed were shot or bayoneted. For those prisoners who did reach the final destination, disease, minimal rations, and torture awaited them and many did not survive.  Each year, some of the survivors (who are now in their late 80s and early 90s) head to the White Sands Missile Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico, were thousands of active duty military, civilians, and wounded warriors march or run in their honor. With so few survivors left and able to attend, it was extremely important for me to attend this race while I could shake their hands.

bataan-death-march-5Inside the packet pickup, you got your race number, your certificate of participation was printed, and you were able to meet some survivors and their families, many of whom were selling books they had written. People think I am heartless, but in fact I am not. I literally am incapable of not buying people’s books. I don’t know what it is about me, but I HAVE to buy them. I guess because I am sort of a writer and I know how much time and heart and soul goes into stuff like that, let alone when you’re a freaking war hero and you had to march hundreds of miles with no food or water when people are being shot all around you. Yes, you beautiful 90 year old man, I will buy your book. As I told Fawn, I get really worried about the idea of old people eating cat food because they are poor. Both of those books cost me $15 each, so hopefully I helped a little. One of the survivors looked so young that I didn’t realize he was one!

p1000270-3Then, obviously, I had to find a way to spend more money, so I got my participation certificate and my commemorative dog tag framed, which you could very conveniently do right there at the packet pick up. Note that I said “participation certificate” and “commemorative dog tag.” This is because you do not get a medal at this race, and you don’t get a finisher’s certificate. You get all your stuff up front. So yes, that means I could have not done the race the next day and still had all the stuff. But then what kind of person would I be? Answer: Apparently Fawn, as this was her suggestion.

475186_10100926765556248_5727095_59483413_378673812_o-3We talked to some hilarious Army and National Guard recruiters for a little bit. They asked me if I was doing the race and I said I was running the full. They asked me if it was my first time, and I said yes. Then they gave me “the look.” They kind of did a sad smile and said “good luck, kid” and sent me on my way. I probably should have sensed the dark times ahead.

Then we wandered off to find Brian, who apparently works in some kind of animal graveyard. Seriously, there was a huge section of the building filled with animal skeletons, skulls, furs, and taxidermied creatures. One of them was a weasel, which is apparently a surprisingly cute and small animal. I asked if I could keep it. Brain said no. I asked if I could trap one. Brain said no. So I settled for a picture with a honey badger instead.

p1000271-3In keeping with my tradition of trying to appear interested in things that my boyfriend likes visiting a brewery in every place I go for races, we headed to High Desert Brewing Company to meet Fawn’s friend Alicia for lunch. Alicia is real cool. She swears considerably more than I do. It was a rare treat.

p1000277-3Fawn and I then took a disco nap in what is quickly becoming another race tradition of ours. I am glad my friends like sleeping, because it’s one of my favorite things. We then headed to dinner at another brewery with another of Fawn’s friends, who also happens to be Brian’s boss. Carol is really legit. During this meal, I made sure to eat double carbs since Brian won’t eat any. A no carb lifestyle is no way to live, people.

With the bubonic plague/smallpox/dysentery getting progressively worse, I was exhausted by the time we got back to the world’s best decorated apartment. I think I passed out around 9:30 while Fawn and Brian stayed up chatting for considerably longer. It was like I knew that the 4 am wake up call was going to be the best part of the next day, so I had better be ready. Oy vey.

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