In 1996, I was introduced to the joys and pains of long distance running. Up until then, I didn’t run much. I spent more time on top of a bicycle seat than I did on the ground in my growing up years.

After a week of boredom and being homesick at Texas A&M University, I joined the Corps of Cadets. They shaved my head, issued me several uniforms, and yelled at me every time I moved. I was quickly in touch with 15 to 18 other freshmen who had a week’s head start on me. This was because they joined the ROTC program when they were supposed to join.

Early in the mornings before class, we often ran around campus as a group. This as a grueling experience as you can imagine. We ran in formation, much like any military platoon or outfit does. Besides being worn out, there were benefits.

I was able to see all the beauty the sprawling College Station campus had to offer. And it was at sunrise, which made it even more dramatic. We ran past the Administration Building, the statue of Sul Ross, Kyle Field, and other points of interest. It made running fun. After those days, running was no fun at all so I stopped.

On the days we didn’t run, we did other rigorous exercises because we’d screwed up something. I never remember what we did wrong. For me, it was because I never kept my shoes shined. Sometimes I was forced to exercise because my grades were terrible. Too bad the push-ups, sit-up, squat-thrusts, and other sets weren’t enough to improve my grades.

Since those days are gone, I’ve always associated exercise with pain and punishment. The running around campus is an exception of course. But lately, I’ve started going to an athletic club. You’re supposed to do things like this to stay in shape. The trainer asked me on a scale of 1-10, what I felt my commitment level was. I told him a 6. I wanted to be a realist about the whole thing. After all, you hear stories of people who spend all this money to join a gym and then they quit going. He gave me a suspicious stare.

I don’t want to be one of those people, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. If I ever quit, it could be because I’m staring at large yellow walls inside a big metal gym. These days, on the electronic treadmill with the cable TV in front of you to watch while you run, you have to think back in your mind to visions of 45-50 young men and women running in step with a big old college campus to look at as you shuffle by.