Competing against a phantom

Phantom runner I've been in a race for nearly a year. But against who or what I am not entirely sure. All the hard work, the writing, the saying yes and the going and being and doing. It's all been me doing for the love of doing, but it's also been me always looking over my shoulder to make sure I'm not falling behind my phantom. And that has been exhausting.

It just so happens, that as a hangover from my university days, I still run on an academic diary. So the time came around this week to officially transfer to a new book of dates and to-dos. Those who enjoy to organise will understand the momentous occasion that this represents, and you will know that inevitably one surveys the preceding year before closing it up, and safely storing it away for future reminiscence.

Such a survey was odd this time. I haven't been back in the UK a full year yet and this time in 2012 my foundations had been washed away and I was poised to have to build something new. Do not mistake me, there were pointers and a few stakes in the ground in the form of wonderful friends, family and some hard work and good fortune on my part. But it was, nonetheless, a vast and unmapped landscape that lay before me.

It has been a long and unusual year in between then and now. And I cannot decide if it was made better and I built faster because I ran. I ran to catch up, to get ahead, to escape. From what, I do not know. A phantom, possibly of others and their well-met milestones, possibly myself and what I hadn't achieved before.

But competing with a phantom is not something you can sustain. Athletes train, they do not always race. To perform at your best, to always think that you are being adjudicated, to worry that if you do not keep winning means you are inevitably losing - eventually it leaves you tired and unsure what you are actually fighting for.

And it's this weekend that I realised. To compete and compare stops you from realising just how much you've done and just how happy you are existing in the beautifully architectured landscape that you have managed to build. I realise this might sound a little hippy-trippy dippy since I'm talking largely in the abstract, but trust me, it's extremely tangible, actual and specific.

To be sat, and exist in that very moment with the people you are with, the context you have created for yourself, and to know you are happy. Simply happy. It shuts everything else up and that phantom race track melts away. Instead, you find yourself standing exactly where you want to be. And the contented rush you get from that is so much more energising and smile-inducing than twisting to look behind you and craning to see ahead.

Living in the now, as they call it, is not rushing to do everything and experience all. It's stopping. Quietening the comparisons. And noticing just what it is that makes you feel like you do not need to run. It is enjoying the fact that simply being is itself a beautiful habitual exercise.