So you’re thinking about or already signed up for the Bataan Death March in WhiteSands NM. Congratulations! You are about to set forth on a great adventure. One that you’ll likely end up telling your grandkids about someday. It truly is an amazing event, if you prepare for it properly.Visit Bataan Memorial Death March online or Facebook. To learn about the history of the March click here. And to to watch a video taken from a recent Memorial Bataan Death March.
28 tips to surviving the Death March.
These tips are taken from my first hand experience at the march.
1. Make a Gear Checklist! The last thing you want to do is be out on mile seven of the twenty-six mile march and remember that you forgot your food or sunscreen at home. Be like Santa, make a list and check it twice. (I will try to get a suggested packing list up for you ASAP)
2. Don’t wear new shoes or boots. Make sure your boots/shoes are well broken in. I got my combat boots from one of my favorite military charities The Boot Campaign. They are Bates Boots USMC women’s specific.
3. Stop at EVERY aid station to check to see if your feet need tending. After missing the first three stations at my last Bataan March I stopped at every single one after that to keep my “hot spots” from blistering.
4. Don’t wear thick socks! I have been running in combat boots for several years now and I hardly ever blister, I’ve done 30 mile races without a single blister and it’s because I wear good quality moisture wicking sock. My boots DO NOT go on my feet without SwiftWick socks. I swear by them!
5. Keep your feet generously covered in Glide or Vaseline. Don’t forget the tips of your toes, in-between your toes and up the leg to where your boots no longer touch. Keep one or both items in your pack.
6. Wear leg gaiters if you’re wearing running shoes. These will keep sand out of your shoes/boots. If you’re in combat boots you’ll want to wear long socks. If you don’t do this… you’re gonna wish you had!
7. Wear long compression socks if in boots. I personally wore green striped SwiftWick VisionTwelve socks, I kept them just above my boot line and they kept the sand out of my boots while keeping me blister free.
8. Wear comfortable clothes that fit and wick moisture. The last thing you want is to be in sweat soaked cotton clothes or something that rubs you to the point of pain. I ended up wearing compression shorts. They were AMAZING. I didn’t get any friction burns, they wicked the moisture, and they helped my hips and IT band from fatiguing.
9. Wear a neck gaiter! The winds can be epic at times and where there’s wind, there is sand blowing. I suggest wearing a light weight material gaiter, so you’ll stay cool and it will also protect you from the sun.
10. Use a nice fitting pack & or hydration pack during the march. You’ll want to carry some of the following items with you. If you’re a woman, I highly suggest getting a female specific pack. I’ve tried wearing men’s and they are always too large and I end up with massive back pain from the ill fit. After much searching I finally found a great pack, it’s made by Osprey.
11. Carry extra socks. When your feet start feeling wet and getting hot spots you’ll want to change out socks. See #7 for what I wear. If you’re doing the 26.2 mileage I would take two extra pair to be safe.
12. Take a travel size foot powder with you. Most of the aid stations have foot powder, but in my experience some people don’t make it to these stations before needing to attend to their feet.
13. Use and carry sunscreen with you. The weather in White Sands is deceptive. It’s beautiful and cool and you think, “I won’t sunburn.” Yes, you will! Within 15 minutes you’ll burn. Make sure to cover all exposed skin including the back of your neck and ears.
14. Wear some sort of sun hat that has a brim. This will help to keep the sun off of your face and neck. You’ll want one with a draw string. The winds can really kick-up and your hat WILL fly off.
15. Carry a water bottle with you. Unlike big marathons there are NOT water stations every mile. I use a 16 ounce bottle and filled up at every water stop no matter how much water was left in the bottle.
16. Eat often! It’s going to be a long day and you’re going to burn up a ton of calories. I kept endurance nutrition products on me and ate bananas and orange slices at every stop.
17. Take wet wipes with you! Keep a zip lock baggie with baby wipes in your pack. You never know when you need or want to clean up and they come in VERY handy if/when you enter a potty without toilet paper.
18. Take about $10.00 with you. At some point well into the 26.2 mile march I was starving for real food and we came upon a little tent village in the middle of the desert and I could smell hamburgers! OMG… I wanted one so bad… They looked and smelt delicious. Everyone who apparently knew about the BBQ and took money was sitting down enjoying their burgers and me…? Well, I ate another banana. That hurt! Take money!
19. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink. Drink even when you don’t feel thirsty. Due to sweat evaporating off of your skin as soon as it touches it you’ll never feel hot and gross and you’ll think, “Oh I’m okay, I don’t need to drink anything.” And then BAM! You’re getting carted off by medics cause you’re severely dehydrated.
20. Carry blister pads with you. I don’t suggest using anything thick. In my experience everyone who’s ever used mole skin or thick pads were the worst to blister up. I keep thin — almost bandaid thin, treatment pads with me. If I get a lingering hot spot where my boots are really rubbing I’ll patch over it. I usually use this exact pad.
21. If you do happen to blister, you’ll want some sort of straight pin to pop it. Clean it off with some water. Dry the spot and then put on the treatment pad. I gave out at least twenty pads along the way to active duty guys who were wearing moleskin and were blistering BAD.
22. Condition your feet. If you’re a female and you get pedicures, stop it! You can still go and have your nails painted and let them rub your feet but you’ll need and wish you had tough skin during the march.
23. Train in the footwear you’re marching in. This means if you’re wearing combat boots during the march — train in the boots. This goes back to conditioning your feet and breaking in your footwear.
24. Pack a flask of pickle juice. No, I’m not crazy. Pickle juice is like rocket fuel for the body when you’re feeling sluggish and it helps you to keep from cramping. This was another thing I saw all along the 26.2 mile march, guys cramping up. If you’re drinking as much water as you should be, you’re also flushing out your sodium, and it needs to be replaced. “Those who drank pickle juice felt cramp relief 37% faster than those who drank water. Results show pickle juice can relieve cramps in just under a minute and a half. Drink 2.5 ounces at the onset of cramp.” — Dr Oz
25. Pack lots of food. Take more food / nutrition in your pack then you think you’ll need. Cause you’ll need it! And if you do end up with more than you need you can always share it with someone along the way who needs it. I also packed some individual Gatorade packets to put in my water bottle(s) to replace electrolytes and change things up from just drinking water all day.
26. Pack a couple of PayDay candy bars. They have everything you need. They are salty, they have sugar, calories and they taste great!
27. Remember to check your ego at the start line. It’s going to be a long day and the terrain is at time rough and tough (but very rewarding). Make sure to listen to your body and don’t over-do-it too soon or you might find yourself having to DNF (did not finish).
28. Take in the moment. White Sands NM is some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Then you mix in thousands of people — much of whom are active duty military in 50+ pound packs and full gear — then you sprinkle in the reason why the march is taking place in the first place and it is magical. As corny as it sounds I had a spiritual awakening during my first march. I never felt so honored to share my day with so many great people in the most amazing country on Earth.