3 conquer 110-mile endurance march

September 27, 2018

DEADWOOD — The only three to enter up in this year’s brand-new, 110-mile endurance category of the Black Hills Veterans March completed up the entire length of the Mickelson Trail in full uniform and rucksack earlier this month.

Sgt. Jeremy Eccleston, with the South Dakota National Guard, said the long-distance march was an idea he presented to the Black Hills Veterans March committee two years ago.

Eccleston said he was told to complete a trial run of the march, from Edgemont to Deadwood, before the committee would approve the event.

“In 2017, I convinced Sgt. 1st Class Chad Brooks and Sgt. Darnell Witte to tag along and start the quest of completing the first-ever Black Hills Veterans Endurance March,” Eccleston said.

This year, joined by Witte and Sgt. Tiffany Humbracht, the trio embarked on the first official year of the endurance march category, open to other participants.

“It is modeled after a march I have been doing since 2011 — five total so far — in Nijmegen, Netherlands, called ‘Walk of the World,’ which is 160 kilometer, 22-pound pack, over four days, and I have always represented the USA Army/South Dakota National Guard in uniform,” Eccleston explained. “Three years ago, while I was doing the Black Hills Veterans March’s 26.2 miles, it dawned on me, ‘Why not do the entire Mickelson Trail in four days, adding a little more distance and making it 110 miles?’”

The endurance march, held Sept. 12-15, took four days to complete: Day one, Edgemont to Pringle; Day two, Pringle to Hill City; Day three, Hill City to Rochford; and Day four, Rochford to the Days of ’76 rodeo grounds in Deadwood.

“It’s not a timed event,” Eccleston said. “The purpose is to finish and have fun. This year, we only had a military category. Next year, we plan on having two – civilian and military.” Eccleston said the endurance march is something he hopes to grow, eventually bringing in all kinds of domestic and international veterans, troops, and civilians to enjoy western South Dakota as much as he does.

“Also, to enjoy the pain, blisters, sweat, and tears as much as I do,” Eccleston said. “The Black Hills Veterans March is a great event. Going the extra few miles is a great way to show support to all veterans and the military.”

So, what was the most difficult part of the journey?

“Besides walking 110 miles?” Eccleston joked. “A couple days, the heat was pretty bad, but overall, everyone did great. I tell everyone I do these ruck marches with, to get a good pair of boots, good socks, and train with them. It’s not if something happens, it’s when, and how you adjust and fix the problem.”

As far as training goes, Eccleston began by preparing in late April for the Netherlands march, held the third weekend in July.

“I tried to get 10 miles in on the bike path about every other day, but that didn’t always work out,” he said. “Weather was a key factor. After I got back from that march, I actually took the rest of the time off leading up to the Black Hills Veterans March. I did some running, but nothing to get ready for the 110-miler. I have done a few ruck marches, so I knew I was good.”

Eccleston said the most rewarding thing about participating was meeting all kinds of people from different states, both civilians and veterans along the way and taking the time to talk with them, even if it was for a few minutes.

“It was just amazing,” he added.

Eccleston thanked everyone who helped make the Black Hills Veteran March a great success over the years.

“And also, a big thank you for all the people who help support us during the Endurance March,” he added. “No way we could have done it without all of the support staff.”

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