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Marathon Man Chaplain runs Bataan Memorial Death March

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Long-distance runners often have a myriad of challenges to choose from. Beginners to the sport might choose to take on three- or five-kilometer runs. Advanced runners might step up to the half-marathon. Experienced athletes are likely to run a few full marathons.

Then, there’s the Bataan Memorial Death March -- a 26.2-mile course that begins on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, crosses dusty and hilly desert terrain, circles a mountain and returns to the White Sands main post through sandy desert trails and washes.

With an intimidating course, and elevations as high as 5,300 feet, the BMDM would be an imposing challenge for even the most experienced runner. Now imagine running in full battle dress uniform. Of the few thousand people who ran the race March 26, several hundred were military members, many of whom ran the course in full BDUs.

Pierre Allegre, a chaplain assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, was among those who participated. The BMDM was his ninth marathon.

“This was definitely the most challenging marathon I’ve run,” Allegre said. “The terrain and altitude made it extremely difficult.”

The run was so difficult that Allegre finished with a time of 6:12.42, about two-and-a-half hours longer than his personal best marathon. His time was good for 73rd place in the male military light division, ages 40 to 49.

Training for the event was a new experience as well.

“For this particular marathon, you’re basically running to survive,” Allegre said. “I ran my long training runs in boots, and I even ran in my boots on the treadmill. I’d run in the hills when the weather permitted. I didn’t push the speed; the important thing was getting my miles in.”

One of the biggest concerns with running in the BMDM was the potential for injury, he said.

“(Running in full BDU) was easier than I thought,” Allegre said, noting he didn’t experience as much chaffing as he expected. “I taped up real well so blisters weren’t a problem. There were a lot of people out there performing first aid on their feet, though.”

There’s more to the BMDM than just the race, however.

“Before the race, we had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with some of the survivors of the actual Bataan Death March,” Allegre said. “I’d never started a race in tears before, but it was cool. There were also teams of injured Iraq veterans who ran.

“You don’t run a race like this looking for a fast time. You run for the experience.”