The third annual “Clemson 8” Challenge will take place March 11-18. The challenge was created to honor Clemson alumni who suffered as POWs during World War II. It is billed as a race for everyone, “whether you are a marathoner, a biker, an exercise advocate, a walker, a swimmer or a couch potato,” and it raises money for scholarships and endowments that benefit Clemson ROTC students. Participants can complete the 8- 14- or 26.2-mile event in one day or over eight days.
The on-campus event will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, 2023, at the Upper Intramural Fields (Lot 2 during football season) across from Fike Recreation Center and the North Upper Deck of Memorial Stadium.
Posthumously, honorary Brigadier General “Colonel Ben” Skardon was the first person to be signed up for the 2023 challenge.
Skardon was the last living member of six Clemson POWs who survived the Bataan Death March. He was well known as the only survivor of the actual Bataan Death March who walked in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, one of the most challenging and well-known marathons in the world. The event is a pilgrimage for veterans, active-duty military members, supporters and the few remaining survivors and family members of the men who perished in the march, the POW camps and the Death Ships.
Skardon walked in the memorial march 11 times, most often a distance of 8.5 miles, beginning in 2007 when he was 89. His last walk at White Sands was in 2019, at age 101. He considered it his duty to walk each year to honor his brothers-in-arms who did not return from the war. He was set to walk again in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic canceled the event. Skardon lamented when the 2021 event was also canceled. As he put it to a group of friends shortly after hearing the news, his annual trip to White Sands was the “carrot” that got him up and walking every day.
A team of students, veterans, alumni and friends created the “Clemson 8” Challenge to give him back that carrot and carry on his mission of honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country in one of the most brutal wartime events in history.
Skardon participated in the first “Clemson 8” March in 2021, walking eight miles — a little over a mile a day for six consecutive days — four months shy of his 104th birthday.
Skardon trained for the Bataan Memorial March in the woods separating his neighborhood from the edge of Clemson University’s campus. His 0.33-mile “Sylvan Delight” Trail was dedicated by the City in 2019 and by the University last summer. The trail is open to the public to walk, jog, or bike.
Skardon passed away on November 15, 2021, at age 104.
Sign up for the in-person or virtual event here.