A year ago from this past Sunday, I was in Montueka, New Zealand wearing an “Irish I were drunk” shirt (classy), drinking green yummy things in honor of St. Patty’s Day with a girl from Tahoe and a bunch of Chileans, filming them say “Happy Birthday” to a long-lost friend, and discussing the visual appeal of Natalie Portman. (Actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure my drink had Baileys Irish Cream and chocolate in it, and was noticeably not green, but tasted the best out of everyone’s.)
This year, however, I was not celebrating St. Patty’s Day. I was on a one-of-a-kind “Roswell Death March,” which I created to honor the Bataan Death March, which honors the P.O.W.’s who trekked 80 miles across the Philippines, which was concurrently taking place (the memorial, not the war).
Background: Every spring for the past 24 years there has been a memorial marathon in White Sands, New Mexico called the Bataan Death March, which draws thousands of participants (most recently, 5,800), and I have wanted to join in on this since moving to Roswell four years ago. [My dad completed the march while I was in high school, and I vividly remember the blister-filled, pain-induced hobbling that followed. Thus, my desire to participate did not surface until I discovered the joy of self-inflicted torture, namely when I started running and taking spin class.]
This was to be the year!
But when I checked the online registration back in January and saw the fee, I thought I would hold off until it was closer to the date–no big deal, I still had three months to sign up–and the next thing I knew, it was March 10th and I’d missed the deadline by four days.
WHERE DOES THE TIME GO, SERIOUSLY??
Not to be dismayed, I figured I would construct my own 26.3 mile endeavor through the good ol’ town of Roswell, which would not be hard to imagine as a place of death.
The specifics are unimportant, but I used mapmyrun.com to determine my route, and orchestrated it as such that I could walk by my parents house at least four times for pit stops and refueling. I set out at 9 a.m., largely underestimating how long it would take me to finish.
Here are the notable features and lessons from my trip:
1) When my mother, the ever-conscientious worrier, found out my intentions, she impressed upon me the dangers of online mapping devices and their inaccuracies, as was evidenced by the show she’d just watched in which a man was told by his GPS that he could drive down a road that had SURPRISE been closed for 35 years.
“Okay, first of all, Mom: I use Google Maps, and it never leads me astray. Secondly: this is Roswell. It’s not like I’m going to mistake a fake road for a real one.
CORRECTION: yes I will.
In trying to cut through to Country Club from Enchanted Hills, Google maps told me to walk on a road (Moore Rd) that was, in fact, separated from the intersection where I was supposed to turn onto it by a giant ditch. At first I didn’t see that there was a road because it was located on a hill of dirt on the other side of the ditch, denoted by DO NOT ENTER signs. It appears the intention was to create a road, as it is carved in dirt all the way to Country Club (it is paved in the residential area), but as of yet–word to vehicular travelers, it is NOT a road.
2) West Country Club Road is not designed for pedestrians. It is an old country road, and I wanted to walk out there because it was secluded and extends due west for many miles. This turned out to be less than ideal, however, when I experienced flashes from the beginning of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the only part of the movie I watched), and I told a friend that he if he did not get a texting response within a reasonable amount of time (say, 20 minutes) to call the authorities.
3) About 10 miles into my journey, I started to get hungry, so I grabbed the pear I had taken from my parents’ fridge, quickly realizing as I took a bite that it was NOT a pear. It was a mango. A small, pear-shaped mango.
[This might dissuade some from eating it, but not me. I learned some tricks after trying to peel and eat a mango on the streets of New Zealand, which were thankfully abandoned at that time because I looked like a zombie attacking a human brain over a trashcan. It was a lot less messy this time.]
4) The perks of making one’s own trail is that one can stop at Mom and Dad’s and eat a turkey melt sandwich for lunch (THANKS, DAD). One can also change shoes, use the loo, and acquire a walking friend.
5) Naturally, there was a dirt storm.* Around mile 21, it started raining and dirting on us (“dirting” as defined by my father: blowing clouds of dirt that leave evidence of destruction, such as layers of caked-on dust on all visible surfaces [and in this case, inside eyes, nose, and mouth]). My friend and I detoured to my apartment on a trek that could be likened to walking through the walls of a tornado, and I was depressed to think I’d have to end my march early. But as soon as we made it to my front door, the clouds parted and there was light. My journey continued.
*common in New Mexico, particularly when all day there has been nothing but beautiful, sunny weather.
6) I admit I nearly gave up at mile 23. The weather was still being shifty and Ms. Mc, before joining me on the last leg, was concerned. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“[sounds resembling umm ughh yeah? hmmm] Why–the weather?”
“I don’t know. It seems okay. There are other people walking.”
“Yes, I see the other people walking, and I wouldn’t put value in their good sense of judgment.”
Nevertheless, she came. She saw. We conquered. And she brought treats! We sat down at our turn-around point and took a picture:
and when I stood up again, I wanted to cry.
But in the end, my feet didn’t hurt that badly (no blisters! hooray!), but my hips were not hippy (happy), my calves were sunburned, and I had dirt coming out of my eyeballs.
I cannot complain, though. I had 9 hours to reflect, catch up with friends, and get some (questionably fresh) air, and there was chocolate cake waiting for me at the end (THANKS, MOM).
Dedicated to all those who endured the real death march–may their soles and their souls rest in peace.