Inner peace and then outer results – not the other way round

This is an Interview with Triathlon legend Mark Allen

What is your vision or dream for the next 5-10 years?

I am at a point in my life, where I’m obviously not racing anymore but I really like to share my experiences. I help people not only with their actual training but also try to give them some different perspective for their personal and business life. This helps them to achieve their goals and to learn from the process. Doing well in a race is satisfying, especially if you become stronger moving forward. As an athlete I tried to learn from the good and the bad experiences, I certainly learned a lot from the bad ones. Often that’s where you learn the most about yourself.

What are your core beliefs?

First and foremost I believe that you have to be a good person with compassion. Don’t brag about your great accomplishments – just live life and be thankful. Brant Secunda always emphasizes that in life you have at least one thing to be grateful for. I think about this statement a lot. My life is like everyone else’s life, I have challenges. I have days where I’m in situations that I don’t want to deal with. I can easily become negative about certain things. When I become negative I take a minute to find one thing to be grateful for. When I find that one thing, all the other stuff doesn’t seem to have that much importance for me anymore. Then I am able to move through things more steadily. That is a real gift.

What are your core values?

I try to live my life simply and value the ability to go through life steadily. Sometimes you are really excited about something and in the next moment you can be overly sad, mad or depressed. It is better to be steady and treat the good times and the bad times all the same. These are just experiences that we are having. It is all good, regardless of what we think about it. Everything depends on how we respond to it. The same situation can be approached with a very different perspective and will create two totally different experiences. I just try to make it as positive as I can.

I highly value friendship, community and people who are trying to develop themselves to become more conscious. I think that helps the whole planet.

What where your key decisions in life?

The biggest decisions I made in my life weren’t really decisions, it was rather following a calling. In 1982, at the age of 24, I watched the Ironman World Championship on television. That was the first time I had ever seen a triathlon. I was a swimmer as a kid but I had never trained biking or running before. The Big Island was calling me to go there and see if I could finish the race. I thought that I would be doing the race once, obviously that calling turned into a 15 year career.

Another calling was in 1989, while flipping through a magazine I saw an advertisement for a workshop in the way of life of the Huichol Indians in Mexico. The advertisement showed a picture of Brant Secunda and his 110 years old teacher, Don José. Don José had adopted Brant and led him through a traditional Huichol Shaman apprenticeship of twelve years in length.

It’s a way of life that is focused on connecting with nature, connecting with your true self and connecting with your family to become a whole person. That really struck something in me. I realized that great results in my racing don’t mean anything if I haven’t gained anything from it.

That was just two days before the Ironman World Championship. At that time I had raced the Ironman 6 times, but never won it. It was my seventh attempt to have a good Ironman there. There was just something about the picture of Brant and Don José that was calling me. I ended up going to one of the workshops in Mexico a short while later. Again, it wasn’t a decision, it was more like being called. I had the feeling that I had to go there. In the first chant Brant sang I felt that I had come home to something I had been searching for since I was a young boy. Even as a young kid I saw that life had to be about more than just getting good grades and being successful. There is something bigger going on. When I was in the ocean, in a field or on a mountain top, I wanted to connect with that. I had no structure of how to do it, it just felt good to be outside.

To study with Brant gave me a really good structure of how to develop myself to get that connection. It is so natural especially for triathletes to feel that connection in their training. You can run on a trail and you feel good. You can go out on the bike, ride to the mountains and you feel good. Human beings are just put together to feel good when they are in nature. We often lose the importance of that connection and don’t foster in the modern world. Those where two big turning points in my life.

Did you see the impact on your racing when you were working with Brant Secunda?

Before studying with Brant, I really had this feeling that the day had to turn out in a certain way to gain something. My goal was to win an ironman. I realized that I had to find a way to be happy to even get to the start line, instead of waiting to cross the finish line to feel that life is just good.

Studying with Brant I went into the race thinking that the end result is unimportant. Either way, the sun will still rise the next morning, my family and friends are still going to love me and the seasons still continue to change. There has to be more meaning to it than the time I finish in.

I remember my last Ironman race in 1995, I was looking around and I was so thankful to be at the start line. I felt as if I had already won something priceless. That just made the racing so much easier, because it is bigger than yourself. In my most recent book “The Art of Competition”, I wrote the statement “Inner peace and then outer results – not the other way round.”

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