Pillars

Pillars

Written by Miller Hollstein

He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me…

Like a petal-plucking romantic, my relationship with running has seen similar see-sawing.

But, somehow, Greek architecture changed everything… for good.

The first runs appeared without warning, and without notice. 

Spraying woodchips as I dashed away from cooties on the playground, tie-dyed relay races at field day, herds of dust clouds chasing and whiffing at a soccer ball…

I never even thought about it. It was simply part of existence

As if by instinct, one day I was just running! 

I ran to the bathroom, I ran to tell a friend a secret, I ran because I could get somewhere faster. 

I ran because… that’s what I did. I ran because I ran. Because, why not?

In those early days, running had no emotion attached to it. 

No one hates running when it is a part of them; when they don’t think about it.

It is simply part of living. Like breathing or walking. 

There was no love or hate for it, it simply was.

But, over time, running became something I resented. 

Sprints until I puked at football practice, laps as punishment for being late, running tests during pre-season…

Running became enforced. It became a chore, an obligation, a punishment.

It became something other than a natural part of life. 

It now had a label.

Labels, created by the human mind, bring judgment.

Good or bad, helpful or harmful... labels obscure the truth and blind us to the bigger picture.

When we label things, we view them through a narrow lens, oversimplifying and limiting the magnitude of what they potentially are.

We ignore the nuances and complexities and apply rigidity to “the labeled thing.”

And these labels, once established, create self-fulfilling prophecies

This was true for me. I “hated” running, so every run became a miserable experience.

But, when I was able to destroy the label, everything changed.

It all began when I learned how amazingly fun trail running is (especially with a 25-pound pack pushing you down the mountain). 

A buddy showed me the ropes while we hiked together on the Appalachian Trail and I began contemplating the realities of running for when I would return to normal life. 

Midway through bombing a hill one day, I had a moment of clarity and everything clicked. 

I felt “on!” All cylinders were firing. I felt strong and alert, propelled by boundless energy. This was much different from other days, but why?

I had just come from town. 

What does that even mean?

In short, I was well-rested, but on top of that, I realized that I had eaten real, nutritious food (not ramen and Clif bars) and was well-hydrated.

That was it! In that moment, I realized how important all of these puzzle pieces were…

And, if these things could affect my running this much, then maybe running could affect them (and other things) in return.

Maybe running was just a piece of the puzzle. And I could use this “piece” to grow and develop the whole puzzle. 

I now call these Pillars.

Like a puzzle needs all of the pieces to be complete, a structure needs all of the pillars to remain standing. 

One pillar affects all of the others. If one pillar falters, they all tend to follow suit. 

But, by realizing they are all part of the same building, the conclusion can be made that by strengthening one pillar, you strengthen all others.

Running, exercise, nutrition, rest, hydration, recovery, the mind… all of these things are pillars. 

All affect running, but all can also be affected by running.

To be a good runner, I need to eat healthy to fuel my body and recover properly.

I need to stay hydrated to ensure my body can perform well.

I need good sleep to recover and be clear-headed.

I need to be mentally sharp to stay focused, safe, and alert on steep terrain.

All of these things promote my running ability, both before, during, and after running. 

And, in turn, they all benefit from the actual running.

I sleep better after a run, I am thirsty, I am hungry and want to replenish with wholesome food, I feel mentally sharper… and, guys, the runner’s high is real.

Running supports the structure and strengthens the other pillars. And the other pillars, when strengthened in their own regard, strengthen the pillar of running. It’s all connected!

Running became different after that.

It became something other than running. It evolved beyond a mere activity “to be healthy.” 

Running revealed the interconnectedness of all things. 

And in that, running transcended its label. 

I ran because it made everything in life better. 

And everything in life being better made running better.

Running became my secret ingredient. 

The spark behind the yin and yang. The interplay of duality. Of life itself.

 

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