Recon Marine Excels at Bataan Death March
Las Cruces, NM – Robby Robinson knew his first marathon would be quite an experience. Under the "easiest” of circumstances, a 26 mile foot race is a test of physical condition and mental toughness. But the one-time Recon Marine from Oceanside, California didn't choose one of the "easy” marathons…ones that feature flat courses and mild weather. No, he chose to take part in the "Civilian Heavy” category of the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon through the forbidding New Mexico Desert.
Not only would Robby have to cover more than 26 miles, competing in the "Heavy” category meant he would have to carry a 35 pound rucksack through the White Sands Missile Range that included plenty of ups and downs, as well as an infamous two mile stretch known as the "Sand Pit” where competitors have to slog through ankle deep sand.
The race is a memorial for members of the New Mexico National Guard and the thousands of Allied prisoners who perished or barely survived the brutal force march inflicted on them after surrendering to Japanese forces who conquered the Philippines at the start of World War II.
Robby wasn't running just for fun or recreation. He had a larger purpose in mind. He wanted to use the race as a vehicle to raise money and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. On his fundraising website, Robby calls the Warrior Foundation's support of fallen special operations personnel "a noble cause”.
After enduring the rugged training to become a Marine Robby knew he could face the physical challenges of the marathon. What he didn't expect was what was waiting for him at the starting point. "When I arrived at the ‘Marchers' check-in point at 4 am on race day it was 31 degrees outside and I was greeted by POW Bataan Death March survivors, standing under the heat lamps telling me, ‘Thank you for coming out and racing this morning.' Men who marched as prisoners of war for over 70 miles telling me ‘Thank you' made me reflect even more on how amazing these men are.”
The warm welcome from the handful of Bataan survivors was the only the beginning of the emotional morning for Robby and the more than 57 hundred other participants. "The opening ceremonies started with the introduction of the POW survivors who were part the Bataan Death March during World War II. A role call was sounded for POW survivors who passed on from the previous year. The National Anthem followed; then out of the eastern sky two F-22 Raptors in perfect timing, flew over head buzzing the crowd. The Bataan survivors were moved to the starting point of the race; they shook each Marchers hand and wished us the best of luck.” After that, the race began with men and women who had been seriously wounded leading the pack.
The course itself lived up to its rugged reputation, but Robby speaks of seeing a glorious desert sunrise, snow covered mountains and experiencing the morale boost of supporters cheering him on and providing him with food and drink on his way to finishing 7th out of more than 200 competitors in the "Civilian Heavy” category. It took just under 5 hours of running and walking to complete the course.
Robby's supporters donated more than $7,000 through his fundraising website. Money that, in his words, will honor "special operations personnel – those who have put a ruck on their back, made movement to some location just ‘one more click away' while their shoulders lost feeling before the last ridgeline due to carrying some unimaginable amount of weight.”
Thanks to Robby's efforts and many others like him, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has helped the families of hundreds of special operators lost or wounded in combat or training operations.