Preparing for the Bataan Memorial Death March

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jenny Vallejos-Padilla, physical therapist
  • 49th Medical Group
Last year, more than 5,700 participants gathered at White Sands Missile Range to honor those who were tortured or killed during the Bataan Death March 69 years ago in the Philippines.

This 26.2 mile course tests those who've come to honor the victims of the march with pavement, dirt trails, uneven and unstable surfaces, hills and an increasing elevation. This challenge requires preparing the body and preventing injuries during the marathon.

To heal after such a feat one must properly train. Here are some helpful hints to get ready for the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon.

Start off with smaller distance and gradually progress. Most of the course contains uneven surfaces, so prepare your body first by walking, then progress to running on uneven surfaces.
If marching or running with weight, start off light and gradually add more to reach your goal. Work to accomplish the distance first, then progress to decreasing the march or run time.

Proper footwear is essential. Wearing shoes designed to handle multiple terrains or boots with good tread will decrease the likelihood of an ankle sprain or overuse injuries. Make sure the shoes have good insoles. Wear socks that will wick away moisture and train in the shoes that will be worn on the day of the marathon to prevent blisters.

Remember the desert climate will be cold in the morning and warmer as the day progresses. Wear layered clothing to prevent muscles from becoming cold and prone to strain. Shed clothes as the day becomes hotter to prevent heat illnesses.

Stretching and strengthening
For a rigorous marathon such as the Bataan Memorial Death March, having a regimented stretching and strengthening program that prepares the entire body -- neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, hips, knees, ankles and feet -- is imperative to prevent injury and prepare for the terrain the course offers.

Hydrate properly with water beforehand, then with liquids containing electrolytes during and after the marathon. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables will help build muscle before the marathon, prevent muscle breakdown during it and help repair the body afterward.

To maintain energy during the marathon, bring small healthy snacks to eat. Hydrate at every water station or wear a water source, such as a Camelback. A water source is also required by all those intending to participate in the military categories.

There is no guarantee injuries will never happen. However, utilizing the above tips; progressing slowly, wearing the proper equipment, stretching, strengthening, properly hydrating and eating a well balanced diet will help prepare the body both mentally and physically, decreasing the chances of injuries.

Not having to focus so intently on injuries will leave participants to focus better and remember those who had to march and lose limbs and lives during such a horrible tragedy as the Bataan Death March.