In Buddhist philosophy, there is extensive writing about the importance of living in the present moment; the idea that what we have done (or not done) in the past dictates our present situation and what we do now will dictate our future situation. Through Buddhism, one learns that it is essential to be fully aware of what is happening now and not worry about what has gone on in the past or what will happen in the future. The past is past and the future will simply be a function of what you do today.
This is really clearly expressed by something that the Chinese Buddhist scholar T’ien-t’ai (538–597) wrote:
If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present
(Taken from “The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin)
And in fact Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism says that in our present environment, regardless of how excruciating our suffering may be, we do have the power to determine our future.
The actions we take at this present moment influence the outcome of our future.
And so it is with running. Having studied Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism for a while a few years ago, I think that the links between that philosophy for life (and in fact eternal life if you believe in that) and running, were clear for me. As far as I am concerned, where you are now – whether that is great form or otherwise – is a direct result of what you have been doing in the past: the choices you have made or the things that have happened to you.
If as a result of the choices you have made, you are not in great shape and not running as well as you would like, then you should welcome that, because clearly it was factors that are within your control that brought you to the situation you are in. Which means that you have the ability to completely control the factors that will get you back to where you want to be.
Obviously it is not as simple if you are in bad shape because of factors outside of your control. In this case it is really important that you are completely honest with yourself and think about whether the things that have resulted in you being out of shape are indeed completely outside of your control – for example saying that your training has gone badly because you are expected to do 18 hour days at work 6 days a week is not a factor outside of your control. Dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster or non-self inflicted illness is.
The key is to accept what has happened and start to work out a way to get back to where you want to be, i.e. control the things you can control and don’t worry about those that you can’t.
Factors within my control
All this has manifested itself for me with my recent running. I ran the UTMB CCC with my wife two weeks ago. Then last weekend I went to the Run To The Beat and ran that half marathon. And then this weekend I went to the Bristol Half Marathon with my coach and many of the runners in the group I train with.
As expected, the night before the Bristol race there was much talk about what people from the training group were hoping to achieve. Many of them are planning to race autumn marathons and so the Bristol Half would be a all-out effort to see what shape they were in and what times they could achieve.
And I knew that I was NOT in good shape and would not be able to keep up with my peers: the runners that I am usually shoulder-to-shoulder with and who, to be blunt, I have been faster than over previous half marathons and marathons. Basically I was going to be scalped!
But I also knew that my present shape was due to the choices I had made and I would not have changed those choices in any circumstances. The business I have launched with my wife is one year old and we have had an amazing start, working with brands and on projects that we admire and share a deep enthusiasm for. As a result of how much I love what we do, I have not been dedicated with my training, instead I have focused on the work we have been doing, fitting in running around that.
I have also run ultra marathons with Julie and they have been absolutely amazing experiences that have opened up totally new experiences for me. They have also not been ideal preparation for fast half marathons or marathons!
And that is why I was so happy with my 78:08 from Bristol this weekend. I ran without a watch and simply enjoyed trying to run with a group, chase the vest in front, not lose any places in the latter stages and see if I could get under 80 minutes. My result is 5 minutes slower than my PB, but that is a fantastic starting point for me to progress from. My present situation is ideal for me to build for future success.
So what about you?
Where are you currently with your running?
What do you want to achieve?
And what choices are you prepared to make to get to where you want to be?