I recently gave an interview to Emily Turner (see her blog Thoughts Showcase), who is studying Media at Weston College. Here are my responses to her questions.
What’s your name, age, and where are you from?
Rasmivan Mark Collinson, 47 years young, originally from Penzance, Cornwall, now residing in Bristol. My birth name is Mark, however, my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy gave me a spiritual / soul’s name of Rasmivan. A spiritual name reflects the qualities of that person’s soul. Rasmivan means “bearer of rays”, and another name for the sun and the moon; it also refers to a deity of the universe.
Can you give me a basic outline of what it is that you do?
I have studied meditation with Sri Chinmoy, my Guru since 2004 until his passing in 2007, and I’m still an active member of the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Centre. Guru is a Sanskrit word that means ‘he who illumines’. I have always enjoyed running, but it was only in 2006 that I ran my first marathon. I then steadily progressed into ultra running and ran my first 24 Hour Race in 2009. In April 2013 I ran my first 6 Day Race – the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York. I run for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. I’m simply an amateur runner on a spiritual path.
When did you start running and how did you get involved?
I started road running when I was about 15. I use to have some old non-descript trainers and one early morning (6am) I went out and ran around the streets around Penzance. I enjoyed the stillness and peace of those early morning runs before school/college. In those early days it was a way I could relax and have that sense of flow where nothing really mattered. Having a stammer / stutter as a teenager brought with it unrelenting fears in any speaking situation and low self-esteem on top of the usual teenage angst. Running was my release valve. The poem below better explains it.
In the 1980s, road running was only just taking off here in the UK so where I lived there was not a running club but there was an Athletics Club in Camborne, which had an outdoor 400m track, but I couldn’t afford to get there and at the time my parents didn’t own a car. I was never coached and just picked up things from reading running books and Runner’s World magazine. As you can imagine my enthusiasm for running so much, progressing to running twice a day had a few repercussions and really I wasn’t training as well as I ought to with such misguided knowledge and application. That led to numerous overuse injuries, predominantly shin splints that restricted my running. I never had the confidence and had so much self-doubt that I was really any good that I never took the opportunity to be coached. I had a few friends who were far better runners than me who invited me along to run with them, as they were coached to regional and national standard, but I dismissed it as I didn’t think I was good enough. Looking back I should have taken that opportunity as perhaps I had potential and that could have been developed. But, I lacked any inking of self-belief. In a way this was as a result of having a stammer / stutter since the age of 8. And that’s a whole story in itself. And then in my late teens, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t run, I got to a stage that it was even painful to walk, and I drifted into my other group of friends who went out drinking and clubbing, as you do, to feel part of that social circle. The discipline and enjoyment of running became sporadic for a number of years until my energies were renewed when I became a student of Sri Chinmoy in 2004.
What or who inspired you to start running?
When I was young I was a great admirer of Steve Ovett, Seb Coe and Steve Cram who were very talented middle distance runners, and then watching the first London Marathon on TV inspired me. It was like, I want to do that, and I can do that. But that inspiration ebbed and flowed and at times it was just a flicker.
My renewed inspiration to pick up running from those earlier years came from an inner urge to change my lifestyle of alcohol and smoking that had become increasingly dominant in my 20s and 30s. I was not a happy person and I had a feeling that I needed to change. Then in my mid 30s, in 2004 I started meditating and became a disciple / student of a spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy. His promotion of running in general, ultra running and self-transcendence hit a chord with me. He said:
“If we run, we see our capacities becoming fully manifested. Previously our capacities were dormant; they did not function inside us. But when we run, we bring to the fore our hidden capacities and are able to do something and become something …
A runner brings forward his capacity and becomes something. Then we see some champion runners, and he gets the inspiration to try to become an excellent runner. Perhaps he will one day excel and go beyond them. So there are always higher goals even after we have become something. Once we reach our first goal, we have to run towards a higher goal.
Run and become.
Become and run.
Run to succeed in the outer world.
Become to proceed in the inner world”. 
Self-transcendence is the concept of making personal progress in different fields – physical, mental spiritual. Self-transcendence means we seek to exceed our previous achievements and extend our capacities.
“Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others. We do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves.” – Sri Chinmoy
How have you had to adapt your lifestyle in terms of what you eat etc?
Being on a spiritual path has its own set of rules and Sri Chinmoy advocated his disciples to eat a vegetarian diet, and to abstain from alcohol, smoking and drugs – the exact opposite of what I used to do! It took a period of 6 months to adapt and adopt this new lifestyle. At one point I was attempting to follow two paths – the spiritual one and remnants of my old life, but after New Year’s Eve of 2004, after drinking and smoking too much, it dawned on me you cannot split yourself and attempt to have your cake and eat it so to speak. I was only deluding myself and not being true to the person I ultimately wanted to become. It was all about transformation and making progress. So now after nearly 12 years, I don’t miss the drinking culture – I’m glad I don’t have to experience the lethargy and hangover after an over exuberant night; I was a bit of a party animal, and could never go out just for a few pints.
Being on a spiritual path has its challenges participating in everyday life. But, Sri Chinmoy wished his students to fully engage with the everyday and outer world whilst being on a spiritual path. His view was that meditating alone up in a Himalayan cave will not be beneficial to the world and assist in transforming the world’s consciousness. You try to follow the teachings of your spiritual Master. Running long distances and competing in ultra running and multi-day events enables me to live more in the moment and go beyond my perceived capacities. It also gives me immense joy and I’m a happier person for it. It’s just a different way of approaching life where you are guided by your spiritual Master to enable you to listen more closely to the dictates of your soul.
What’s been the best experience so far?
In terms of my running experiences it has to be being part of an international team when I did 6 months of the European leg of the World Harmony Run in 2006 and the whole USA route in 2010. Also very special was organising the south west route of the GB run 2011.
In terms of my best race experiences it has to be the 72 hour race in Phoenix in 2013/14 when I was second male with 233 miles and my first 24 hour race in 2009 when I ran 112 miles.
What’s the most important or significant thing you’ve learnt from your journey?
It is all about the journey and not ultimately about the destination. There is so much that I have gained and continue to gain from being on a spiritual path and participating in these ultra running races. I think ultimately, what Sri Chinmoy taught me, is to never, never, never give up, and always believe in your spiritual Master. There are so many stories and experiences I could tell you – one special instance is that of a Compassion Miracle of my Guru’s protection (A Spiritual Master’s Protection). I was running, hit by a car on a zebra crossing and I walked away with simply a tiny scratch on my arm. Endurance events are challenging and they push you out of your comfort zone, but ultimately from these experiences you grow and become stronger.
I read recently a quote on Facebook, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place”. This totally makes sense to me.
What is the most rewarding part of this experience?
I think it has to be eventually having a sense of contentment and happiness. Through the inner and outer challenges of ultra running life can make sense and become clearer. Scott Jurek, a famous American ultra runner made the comment that, “Running is not easy and it’s challenging. It’s that kind of good discomfort that cleanses us”. When you’ve had the perfect run, you’ve cleared your soul.
What has been your biggest achievement?
That’s a hard question to answer, and I think in terms of my race performances it has to be finishing as second male with 233 miles in the 72 hour Across the Years Race in Phoenix, USA in 2013/14.
Are there any negatives?
I can’t think of any.
What and when is your next exciting adventure?
This year the European leg of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run begins on 24th February in Porto and finishes on 8thOctober in Rome, and I will be part of an international team completing the whole European route.
In a world that is ever more connected and yet at the same time people feeling disconnected, this year gives me the opportunity to reconnect with my spirituality, with so many people and myself. It will also enable me to return to the joys of running for peace and harmony that feeds my soul.
The simple act of running to promote peace and harmony is a way of making a difference by touching the lives of so many people and taking their hopes for a more peaceful and harmonious world to the next town/village, the next city, the next country and the whole world. Many drops of water make an ocean.
I fly out to Porto, Portugal on 23rd February and over the last 18 months of thinking and planning about the Peace Run it is finally reaching the time for me to leave my ‘normal’ life and embark on a great adventure. A few months ago I suppose I was getting cold feet, and had the usual doubts and fears on whether I was making the right decision to be on the Peace Run for such an extended time. But, when I compared my experiences on previous Peace Runs and thinking about it sat in front of a computer at work writing another report, then it is a no brainer. Life is about seizing wondrous opportunities and living a life with no regrets. I’m definitely going to remember events and experiences that happen on the Peace Run that will remain with me forever. I couldn’t tell you what I did in the office last week, so that tells you something.
What advice would you give someone else wanting to run professionally?
Well, I’m not in the position to give advice as I don’t run professionally. That’s something that I’m not qualified to comment on. However, there are general aspects that I’ve learned that can be given to anyone who wishes to be successful and gain contentment in anything what they do.
- Believe in yourself. Have self-belief that anything is possible and never, never give up. Let no one tell you that you can’t do it, or it is not possible. It is important to be your own person.
- Dare to be different. I always remember Daley Thompson saying, “The only way to make a difference is to be different and do what the others are not doing ……… I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren’t training at all, so it gives me two extra days”.
- Surround yourself with those that can nurture you. Be that friends and family who can believe in you and for any young sportsperson to become professional it is to find that coach that can keep you moving in the right direction and achieving those goals. Being part of a running club will help to structure your training, maintain a discipline and help to monitor your progress. Training with others inspires you to become better.
- Have a Goal. The anticipation of attempting something that you have prepared weeks, months or years for adds richness to life. Life can thrive in the presence of big goals and it can nourish the heart and soul.
- Adversity. Overcoming challenges makes you stronger. Not everything goes to plan, but it tends to change your life in many ways, most for the better.
- Simplicity. Keep your training simple and don’t over complicate it when it is not needed. Stay committed to your training plan. Be patient and don’t expect to be the best right away.
- Rest and recovery. Never underestimate the importance of rest to let you physically recover and mentally recharge. Nutrition is so important and helps your body to recover after races and intense training sessions. Keeping a sense of perspective and balance is so important, and listening to your body and intuition is key.
 Sri Chinmoy (2008) The Inner Running and the Outer Running – Yogic Secrets for Better Running, p.13, New York: Aum Publications.