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Desert march tests local runner’s mettle

Intense commemorative marathon once in a lifetime experience

Staff writer

Courtney Boehm of Hillsboro runs competitively, but a recent marathon-length event was unlike anything she had ever attempted.

The 29th annual Bataan Memorial Death March on March 25 commemorated World War II at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

U.S. and Filipino soldiers surrendered April 9, 1942, and were forcibly marched approximately 65 miles through Philippine jungles in horrific conditions to prison camps.

The White Sands course snakes 26 miles through grueling high desert terrain. About 8,400 people participated in this year’s event.

Boehm did the march with her parents.

“You have a choice whether you want to do heavy or light. I chose heavy, which meant I had a 40 pound rucksack through the mountains,” Boehm said.

Boehm’s pack was filled with food which was donated to area food kitchens.

“It was a really great experience,” she said. “Very patriotic. As you were going people were helping you. There were some people who went down, because of how intense it was, and if they couldn’t finish people would stop until they could be picked up by four wheelers.”

Boehm said she trained for three and a half months for the strenuous trek.

“Me and my parents, once a week or whenever we could get together, did marches with the packs on,” she said. “We went to Tall Grass Prairie in Leavenworth, where my parents live. I also trained some by myself and some with friends along with other cardio exercises.”

Despite months of vigorous training, Boehm’s father, a veteran, experienced physical complications that kept him from crossing the finish line.

“My mom and I finished together,” she said. “At mile 14 my dad started dry heaving from heat exhaustion and it was making him dehydrated very quickly.”

Boehm said that while the experience was a positive one, she probably wouldn’t participate again.

“It was probably a first and only thing for me,” she said. “It was very intense and I’m glad I was able to participate and compete.”

Last modified April 5, 2018

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