Last year on St. Patrick’s Day, I was in Montueka, New Zealand, wearing an “Irish I were drunk” shirt drinking Baileys Irish Cream alongside new Chilean friends while filming a “Happy Birthday” video for my ex-boyfriend that I would give him belatedly in the States.
This year, however, I was not celebrating St. Paddy’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 back to Roswell. My dad completed the march while I was in high school, and I vividly remember the blister-filled, pain-induced hobbling that followed. But I am finally ready to engage with suffering, and I liked the idea of the challenge.
This was to be the year!
But when I checked the online registration in January and saw the fee, I thought I would hold off until it was closer to the date–no big deal, I thought, since 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.
Not to be dismayed, I figured I would construct my own 26.3 mile trek through the town of Roswell, which is not 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 noteworthy occurrences and lessons from my trip:
1) My mother, the ever-conscientious worrier, found out my intentions and immediately warned me about the dangers of using online maps, citing their inaccuracies. She’d just watched a show 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: Google Maps 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, more like a dirt path intercepted by a giant ditch. A large mound of dirt sat abandoned beyond the DO NOT ENTER signs, and the dirt road continued. There was about a block’s worth of paved street far at the other end.
It appears the intention was to create a road but it was never finished. I cannot tell my mother she was right.
2) West Country Club Road is not designed for pedestrians. It is an old country road, a quiet two lane highway with hardly any shoulder, and I thought it would be an expedient way to accrue mileage because it extends due west for 50 miles. Within ten minutes, however, I experienced flashes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the opening scene in which the pickup truck stops for a girl walking on the side of the highway, and then she kills herself. (I was actually so horrified by the opening of the movie I failed to watch the rest. ) The desert landscape, the country road, it was looking all too familiar. I asked a friend to call the authorities if more than five minutes elapsed between his text and my response.
3) About 10 miles into my journey, I started to get hungry, so I took the pear I had taken from my parents’ house out of my bag and took a bite, quickly realizing that it was NOT a pear. It was a mango. A small, pear-shaped mango.
I still ate it, but it was decidedly more complicated.
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. One can also change shoes, use the toilet, and acquire a friend to walk with.
5) Naturally, there was a dirt storm.* Around mile 21, it started raining and dirting (“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]). After what could be likened to walking through the walls of a tornado, my friend and I detoured to my apartment. 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 shifting and unpredictable, and Ms. Mc, who planned to join before me on the last leg, was concerned. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“[sounds resembling coughing and crying] 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 sense of good judgment.”
Nevertheless, she came. And she brought treats! We sat down at our turn-around point and took a picture:
and when I stood up again, I thought every bone in my foot was broken.
Fortunately, I had no blisters, but my hips ached, 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 to my mother.
Dedicated to all those who endured the real death march–may their soles and their souls rest in peace.