“Death March Ultramarathon: Running To Honor, Help Vets”

This is a news article written by Tina Arceo-Dumlao and published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s April 5, 2009 issue. It was posted on Page A4. Hereunder is the exact copy of the said article:

A RUN FROM MARIVELES, BATAAN, TO the 102-kilometer marker in San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 hours.

That is the daunting challenge that 82 hard-core runners, including eight foreigners and five women, will try to meet as they “run, endure and survice” the 1st Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race.

The “few, proud, and brave” runners would have taken off from the Bataan Death March Park at KM 00 at 1:00 a.m. today to retrace the route of the infamous “Death March” of April 9, 1942.

The runners are expected to cross the San Fernando finish line at around 7 p.m.

According to World War II accounts, over 90,000 Filipino and American soldiers captured when Bataan finally fell to Japanese invaders were marched out of Bataan. Around 5,000-10,000 Filipinos and 650 American soldiers collapsed and died from exhaustion or untreated wounds during the three-day ordeal in the scorching summer heat. Those who culd not keep up were beaten or shot. Some managed to escape; some died trying. The 54,000 who managed to reach Pampanga alive were then placed on board on a cargo train to Camp O’ Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.

Retired Maj. General Jovenal D Narcise, the brains behind the ultramarathon, told the INQUIRER that he organized the country’s first competitive ultramarathon to commemorate the dead and surviving heroes of the Bataan Death March.

“We would also like to raise some funds to support the needs of World War II veterans who are now under the care of the Veterans Medical Center,” he said.

Narcise said a similar ultramarathon is held every year in New Mexico in the United States in support of the American survivors of the Death March. He felt that it was just right to organize a counterpart event in the Philippines.

“By the number of fatalities on the side of our Filipino heroes of Bataan and Corregidor, we should be the one who should be doing this memorial service by way of retracing the route they had taken,” said Narcise.

He said the race would help imbue in Filipinos the memory of “the sacrifices that our forefathers offered in the name of defense of the country and freedom from foreign invaders.”

Man known as Bald Runner

Narcise, called Bald Runner in the running circuit, said that with the race, he hoped to put the Philippines on the world map of ultramarathons and make it part of the schedule of adventure tourists.

He said the Bataan 102K race had the potential to be as popular as the Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa, Badwater Ultramarathon in the United States, Marathon Des Sables in Morocco, Libyan Challenge in Libya, Jungle Marathon in Brazil and Gobi March in the Gobi Desert, China, because of its historical significance.

Narcise said ultramarathons are gaining popularity around the world. A 100-km ultramarathon will be featured as a demonstration sport in the 2012 London Olympics.

Qualifying race for Olympics

“In envision this Bataan 102K as a qualifying race for our future Olympic athletes,” he said.

The 56-year-old Narcise, who boasts of having the same 29-inch waist that he had as a cadet of the Philippine Military Academy, added that he was also inspired to organize the event to get more people to embrace a healthy lifestyle through running—an inexpensive yet effective way to keep fit. 

Narcise, who retired last year as commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, has been running since he was a cadet and his passion pushed him to put up the race even without government support.

No support from promoters

“Sad to say, I was not supported by those government offices which are promoting sports development. I was also not supported by those who are promoting tourism in the country. Moreso, I got negative response for help and assistance from people and politicians whom you always see telling the public that they are going to support our quest for sports excellence in the Olympics,” he said.

But far from being discouraged by the lack of support, he went into the project with even greater enthusiasm. Those who encouraged him were fellow running enthusiasts and former subordinates in the AFP who believed in his mission to celebrate heroism by running in the heroes’ foosteps.

Picture of the News Article
Picture of the News Article

My sincerest thanks to Ms Tina Arceo-Dumlao for writing this news article and have it published on the day the race event happened. I really appreciate those countless telephone calls, SMS, and e-mails between us.  How I wished this news report would have been published with www.inquirer.net. My appreciation goes also to Kim O’ Connell who took the initiative of making sure that this event would be known to everybody through her “contacts” and friends.

I had the chance to read this news article when my brother, General Samuel, met  and paced me on my last 9-10 kilometers of the ultramarathon race. I was then brisk-walking while I was reading this article and it gave me the energy-boost to finish the race.

On my way back to Manila after the race, I found out that the Chief of Staff of the Office of the President called me twice on my cellphone during the time while I was running along the stretch of SanFernando-Dinalupihan Highway, within the vicinity of Lubao, Pampanga.  I tried to return the call but it was not answered. Maybe, he was too busy attending the Birthday Celebration of the President and/or preparation for the President’s attendance to the Araw Ng Kagitingan to be held at Mt Samat the following day. 

On the day after the activities at Mt Samat, the Chief of Staff called me while I was in my hometown celebrating the 85th Birthday celebration of my late mother. He informed me that the President saw the runners and myself during the ultramarathon event. However, the main reason why he called me was because of the abovementioned news article. The President read the news article and she was touched by the objectives of the race event even without positive support from the government and personalities who advocate sports development and sports excellence. But, the Chief of Staff tried to help and appease my concern about the lack of support as more time must be neded to process such requests. I told him that I received formal letters from sports & tourism authorities and “personalities” outrightly denying my request. My friend became silent at the other end of the line after telling him that I still have those letters. So, we just talked about other things and the things I am doing to help others.

Ok. Let us move on. On the 1st weekend of March next year, it will be 2nd edition of the BDM 102 and it will be within the Election Campaign Period. I predict that these “jokers & comedians” and wannabe “actors, singers & dancers” will be looking for events where they will be known by the people. The BDM 102 event will never be used for politics and commercialism. Let this be a running event to honor our heroes and a venue for us who are “crazy” and hardcore runners to test the limit of our body’s endurance.

So, train now and have fun!

(Note: I will post the letters from Philippine Sports Commission, Department of Tourism, and some of the “presidentiables” in response for some support to the BDM 102 in due time)

13 thoughts on ““Death March Ultramarathon: Running To Honor, Help Vets”

  1. Ultra-marathoning gets so little respect sometimes. Even here in the US many don’t think it’s a real sport. They think we are just a bunch of crazy hikers, doomed to live our old age in crutches because we are “ruining our knees”. Well I hope with all the positive press that there will be more support in the 2nd edition. Ultra is growing in the Philippines. Salamat for your note. Yes hopefully one day we can meet and share in an epic run.


  2. How I wish that “all Presidents wanna-be” must join first an ultramarathon for them to really appreciate this sports (or curse it hehehe).

    …and If I were you Sir Jovie, you run for President (just like the slogan on your red adidas shirt), you have my vote and the rest of running community, specially the hardcores.


  3. Br, Thanks for sharing this article with us. It would be great next year to get some tv coverage as well. An event like this ought to be shared to everyone. As for those who will support next years event, only those deserving and with real intentions should be allowed.

    Congrats again BR!


  4. adding to rickgaston comments, until now 85% of my friends are still bullying me of running that far hahahaha… ‘they’ will never understand us.

    BR, you will expect later in the future that the sponsors will be the one to offer their service to this event…


  5. HI BR,

    My son’s yaya accidentally hit the BDM trophy. Ayon, naputol sa base. Can you refer me to the one who made it? Pa repair ko si Precious. Tnx!


    • mark, give me back your destroyed/deformed trophy and i’ll be the one who will have it fixed. no charge!


      • Br, naiyak naman ako… Super Thanks! I didnt get angry at my son’s yaya. It was an accident. But I was really bothered by it. Sabi ko nga “Ano, tatakbo ako ulit para makakuha nyan? Eh that’s the first! ” It was my wife’s birthday then, so cool lang talaga dapat si Daddy. 🙂

        Appreciate your offer BR, Im grateful. 😀


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