Marchers participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March for many reasons: personal challenge, the spirit of competition, or to foster esprit de corps in their unit. Some march in honor of a family member or a particular veteran who was in the Bataan Death March or who was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese in the Philippines.
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging march through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range. Participants get to choose between two courses: a 26.2 mile course or a 14.2 mile course. The march was conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives. Many of the soldiers defending Bataan were from New Mexico, which affected many New Mexico families.
The Bataan Memorial Death March has become entwined in the culture of southwest New Mexico and has become one of the most popular events of the year for many people around the state, the country, and even around the world, drawing in more than 6,500 participants.
Since 1989, the Bataan Memorial Death March has been held annually. The march is considered a full marathon with a course that traces paved roads and sandy trails in the high desert landscapes of southwest New Mexico. It is considered by Marathon Guide as one of the top 30 marathons in the United States.