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"
On July 19th we paid tribute to these soldiers at a 50K race in Fort Bragg on the All American Trail called "The March"
Woke up at 4:30 to leave for the race at 5:00. I thought it was going to take about an hour to get to the start, but after plugging it into my GPS I realized it was 1:45 - oops! Oh well. We still made it there in plenty of time for the start :)
Went and picked up my number at packet pickup - Each runner had the name and serial # of one of these POWs on their race bib. I number 34 - Francis B Iyall #19096566 US Army. I got a bit choked up seeing the name and # and running in honor of him. I pinned the number on my shorts and gathered with everyone to hear the pre race briefing and start.
|At the start|
I started off with everyone and headed down the 5.5 mile trail to the first turnaround. Stayed in the "first female" spot for about 2 miles then I backed off the pace some and started to get passed. I was ok with that.
Got to the turnaround, filled up my handheld, got my number punched to prove I actually ran all the way there and headed back.
On the way back to the 'start' and before the 10 mile out and back - I was thinking that I needed to stop at the Jeep to get some music. I was not running with anyone, I left my phone in the car, had no music, and my Garmin died at the Relay in MI so I was running "completely naked". So that was the plan, get some music and try to find some motivation!
That is until I hear someone yelling behind me "we are coming to get you" or "we are after you" or something like that... It was Mark and Tim running up the hill. I yelled back at them that I would wait, but it was really going to mess up my time - ha!
|Start/Finish aid station from the 5.5 mile side|
We reached the start/finish aid station, filled up our waterbottles again, then headed back out for the long out and back. Mark started telling me about the goals I didn't even know I had. ha! It was good running with them. Learned a new song, we sang some familiar ones... He just kept saying, "better save some for the last 10 miles cause we are kicking it in from there".
Saw a HUGE spider while running - you know its big when you are running and still see it - ha! Lots of ants on the course too. LOTS!
Before long we saw the leaders coming back from the turnaround. We timed it from when the first woman passed to the time we got to the aid station - to see how far ahead she was of me.
|The 3 of us out there - Mark, Myself and Tim|
The first place woman was 9 minutes ahead of me. I was currently 6th place. So, the goal was set. Time to kick it in.
Now most people know that once that last corner is turned with me, and I know that finish is nearing, I am ready to be done. Call it what you want, Barnburning, or "Walshing it" somehow I get the energy to get to that line strong.
After that farthest aid station, Mark and I took off. Tim fell back - what I didn't realize at the time is that he rolled his ankle, not just once but twice! :/ That is why he fell behind.
We were running all the hills and making some great time. With about 8 miles to go The clouds started thinning and with 7 miles to go we had blue skies. It. Was. Hot! It was a delicate balance between overdoing it and pushing the pace enough to make up some time.
|Peace out - runnin in the hot sun!|
I passed both her as well as couple more folks in those last hot miles. Mark pulled ahead of me, never to be seen from again - lol! He was strong on the hills but I wasn't. Needed to powerwalk up them in order not to overheat.
I was thankful for the mile markers on the side of the trail. With very little math, I could figure out how many more miles it was to the start - without that, I would have been completely "naked and afraid" HA!! ;) Seriously, it was cool in some ways not to have a garmin, but knowing how many miles I had to go is a very good thing. The start finish was at mile marker 5.5.
|near the finish|
Just before reaching the finish I was handed an American flag to carry to the finish line. I felt very blessed to have the opportunity to give tribute to the brave POW's that endured "The March". I got a bit choked up running to the finish thinking about it and running through all the flags.
Came in to the finish to a cheering crowd. It was amazing. I was handed a dog tag medal for finishing the event. Very unique token of accomplishment for a race that goes just beyond me and the runners that ran it.
Oh, and that first place female? She rocked it! I congratulated her at the end - she stayed 9 minutes ahead of me. I was matching her pace for those last 10 miles. Thats pretty cool. :D
I looked up the info on "my soldier" when I got home and this is what I found:
Name Francis B Iyall
Birth Year 1913
Enlist Date 04/17/1942
Enlistment Place Tacoma Washington
Term Duration of War, Plus 6 Months
Race + Citizenship White, Citizen
Education 4 Years High School
Civilian Occupation Semiskilled Lumbermen, Raftsmen, And Woodchoppers
Marital Status Single, Without Dependents
Enlistment Source Civilian
Conflict Period WWII, World War II
Parent Unit 0168
Unit Type Group Regiment Commands System
Detaining Power Germany
Camp Stalag 20a Thorn British Poland 53 18
First Report 02/17/1943
Last Report 01/30/1945
Area North African Theatre Tunisia
Source Official Sources
Status Liberated or Repatriated
I thought of both of my Grand dads when I was out there and the service they gave to our country. One was a Marine, the other in the Army. Both served in WWII. I am grateful to them, and to all those who have served their country in the armed forces.
I loved this race. I loved running in Fort Bragg. It was the sandiest trail I have ever run on aside from running a few miles on the beach. It was hard. My calves and hamstrings burned and days later my legs are dotted with what I think are ant bites. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was an amazing experience.
Thanks to Mark and Tim for motivating me and keeping me moving, moving faster, laughing and singing. Good times on that trail.
Thanks to Veronica - the race director - great event, very well organized, great aid stations and fantastic volunteers!
Til the next adventure - *cheers*
fueled by gatorade, 2 gus, many s-caps, pbnj's, pretzels, chips, water and one really hot espresso love hammergel at the last aid station - ugh, gross! It worked tho! I rarely drink gatorade but with it being so hot I did this time. It worked. Post race recarb of Oberon from my hometown in MI.
|Me, Mark and Tim|
|Chillin with this crazy crew - lol! too funny!|
|Grateful finisher (with an Oberon in hand)|