Wal­mar­tathon: a 6.4 mile run to the Jonesville Walmart, greatly enhanced by dan­gerous winter weather. (Flickr)

When the pavement outside the Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene peeled its pock-marked lips from my face, I realized that my freshmen lungs were closed for business. Bron­chitis told me so.

Physical Wellness Dynamics is a subject of much debate at Hillsdale College. Specif­i­cally, it has received uni­versal disdain from the small group of Hillsdale stu­dents I polled. The course’s exis­tence is baf­fling. Stu­dents talk of a time when other physical activity courses could fulfill the requirement. Detractors of the PWD seem primed to even dive into Social Dance without a partner if it means skipping lec­tures on adenosine triphos­phate.

In my expe­rience, PWD was a circus of good inten­tions. The lecture came from Swimming and Diving Coach Kurt Kirner, the Pow­er­Points he used were made by someone else, the exam we took was con­structed by another person, and the book we read didn’t really tie into the course very well. It seemed that the entire class, at the time I took it, was a group project con­structed by Dr. Franken­stein, with several well-inten­tioned com­po­nents that didn’t fit together cohe­sively.

In all this con­fusion, one thing stood out to my bam­boozled freshman brain. Coach Kirner delivered every lecture like a moti­va­tional speech, explaining to stu­dents how they could be more than Breaking Bad boot­leggers sur­rounded by empty Pringle tubes. Somehow, PWD con­vinced me to try that running thing again. For context, I’d only joined cross-country in my junior year of high school because my thin frame screamed “freak who runs shirtless through unsus­pecting suburbs every day,” and no one believed that I wasn’t on the team.

While well-ripened peer pressure may encourage a person to make daily runs to and from the oasis that is the Jonesville Walmart, there is no denying the fact that Coach Kirner’s lec­tures on exercise sparked a drive within me to run until I col­lapsed. By Christmas break, I had no trouble running the Wal­mar­tathon, a 6.4 mile journey greatly enhanced by dan­gerous winter weather.

It wasn’t all perfect. The adren­aline rush of leaving PWD to run alongside the freeway faded over time, and while I found myself running just fine, I was “under­weight” according to the won­derful BMI table that con­sis­tently labels Sylvester Stallone as obese. My col­lapse on the pavement outside the church was a result of stub­bornly choosing to run outside in the freezing cold. I couldn’t, and still can’t, under­stand the complex mech­anism that is the standard treadmill. Because this may be the one area where PWD failed me, this is also a public plea for a treadmill expert – apply through my email.

If you ath­let­i­cally peaked in high school, college may be the first time you lace up ath­letic shoes and drag yourself to the trail or sports complex without someone, such as a parent or a coach, pres­suring you into it. While many stu­dents may not care for PWD at Hillsdale, there are detractors of the class who still exercise inde­pen­dently until they abandon all healthy habits during hell week. I was one of them.

Perhaps all PWD needs to be is a freshman lecture series on why exercise might be a good idea. Maybe just have some of the coaches from various sports explain physical activity. I don’t think the program is by any means perfect, but it made me gen­uinely con­sider doing some­thing about my health. Regardless of the course’s many flaws, I can still point to the moment during freshman year when I decided to embrace the physical pun­ishment of running, and – when it’s not unfor­givably cold out – I’ll tackle that Wal­mar­tathon like it stole from me.

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Joe Pappalardo
He is from Loveland, Ohio. After getting hands-on reporting experience at a naval battle, he now works as the assistant Web Editor for the Collegian. One of the last members of Hillsdale’s computer science program, Joe is pursuing a marketing major and journalism minor. Email: | @joepappalardo95