Interview: Sakyong Mipham

The Sakyong is the head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage; he is a high lama in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and as such is also a Rinpoche, which is an honorific meaning ‘precious jewel’. Therefore he is sometimes referred to as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche or Mipham Rinpoche.

Alongside his Buddhist role the Sakyong is also known as an author and a keen sportsman – to date he has completed nine marathons. The Sakyong believes that physical activity is not only essential from a health perspective but also from a spiritual point of view. His book ‘Running with the Mind of Meditation’ shows that the techniques of long distance running and contemplative meditation can work together with one benefiting the other.

The Sakyong has said: “Movement is good for the body; stillness is good for the mind.” 

When did you start running and did you have any particular reasons for starting?

I began running in 2002, mainly to get into better shape and to engage in another mind/body discipline

If you could run with and/or race anyone, anywhere who would it be and where? Over what distance and on which surface?

My favorite places to run are on mountain trails. I like any distance, but these days, anything over 10 miles with a few friends is perfect.

Running wise, who do you look up to and who has inspired you?

Frank Shorter is the first person that comes to mind. Not only did he accomplish incredible things as an athlete, but he also helped change an entire culture. He brought running into mainstream daily life, and with that, the idea that anyone can attain a decent level of health and wellbeing.

What are your favourite training conditions and are they the same as your favourite racing conditions?

My favorite training conditions involve hills and some technicality at high altitudes, varying temperatures, speeds, and environments – anything goes. I like to race in cooler weather, though, and on a smooth surface. I enjoy courses with a few good hills and interesting views of the area.

What is your fondest memory of running and, conversely, your worst?

One of my favorite running memories is of a time we came out of the woods into a pasture in the Rocky Mountains. The horses grazing there looked up at our little group and began to run with us. We ran side by side with the heard for about a mile before coming to the edge of the pasture.

One of my worst memories is the same example from my book, Running with the Mind of Meditation, when I had to pop a giant blister that had formed on the bottom of my foot. I finished the race having learned a very useful lesson – never wear new socks on race day!

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