Troops challenge selves with 100K walk under Bosnian sun
Stars and Stripes June 17, 2003
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Capt. Gordon Bjornman signed up for the 100-kilometer walk with the goal of finishing the whole thing.
But while he was forced to throw in the towel after 52 kilometers, he felt no shame.
“The people who have done it know how hard it is. The people who haven’t done it haven’t even tried,” said Bjornman of the 134th Long Range Surveillance.
Bjornman was among 127 American, Danish, Polish and Dutch soldiers, and members of European Police Mission in Bosnia who put their bodies to the test, leaving Eagle Base early Saturday morning for the start of the 100K Challenge.
“Just think about it. That’s 12,000 kilometers if they all finish,” said Niels Larsen, a civilian section leader with Danish National Support Element who marked laps completed on participants’ cards.
The first part, 52 kilometers, took the walkers on dirt roads through the Bosnian countryside. The second consisted of 12 4-kilometer laps around the base.
While only 36 troops walked all 100 kilometers, most participants went more than half the distance. All got certificates with the number of kilometers they crossed.
“I wanted to do all 100, but it just didn’t work my way,” said Bjornman. “I just decided I’m hurting. It’s time to stop.”
It took Bjornman just 4½ hours to cross the first 40 kilometers, but he slowed down a lot for the next 10, taking two hours.
Troops used different tactics to keep going under the scorching sun, with little shade along the way.
With 43 kilometers left, Spc. Cooper Cory, of 134th LRS, stopped to change his socks, rest and take a shower to freshen up.
Sgt. David Kroupa, also of the 134th LRS, decided not to sit at all.
“I wanna get done cause it’s hot out here,” Kroupa said. Sunscreen and a wet towel on his head were his only relief. He stopped briefly at a checkpoint after 64 kilometers to grab some water, chips and a candy bar.
“I’m just looking down and walking, thinking about whatever comes to mind, trying not to think about sore feet and sore legs,” he said.
Most soldiers have already had some walking experience in Bosnia. The Danish Contingent had organized 30-kilometer marches before, during which troops had to carry over 20 pounds on them.
While they wore their PT uniforms and sneakers for this one, both Kroupa and Bjornman agreed the shorter distance with heavy packs was easier.
“Your body weight gets pretty heavy after a while,” Kruopa said.
He wanted to see how far he could go this time. And he went all the way. Cory did too. Karen Broeger, a Dane, completed the march first, finishing in 12 hours and two minutes.
Spc. James Desmarais, who works at the Task Force Med Eagle emergency room had to quit after completing 52 kilometers. A nurse had noticed his hands were getting swollen and his wedding ring was cutting into his finger.
Desmarais promised he would be ready to work the next day, being the only nurse in the emergency room.
“I pushed myself harder than I have in a long time. I’m out,” he said.