Whenever I tell people that I’m doing a circuit race I get the same stunned look. It’s almost as if I told them I was going to fly to the moon with wings I knitted from Alsatian hair. Needless to say I got the look more than once last week when I announced I would be doing my second individual Dawn to Dusk 12 hour circuit race and planned to get close to 100km for the day.
Running any distance in the 80km+ range becomes very demanding mentally and when it’s in the format of running in circles it becomes a boring beast of a completely different nature. I see this as mental training because when you do something like the KAEM your mind has to be rock solid and any moment of weakness can lead to mental issues that will derail your race completely. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere and freaking out is not fun and for some strange reason as far as I’m concerned running in circles for hours on end is the best way to prepare for this mentally.
When doing something like this I always try and find a way to keep my mind busy and Saturday at the Gerrit Maritz high school was no different. I think it was somewhere around lap 50 when I realised I still had 40 to go that I met my ‘Crocodile Brain’ for the first time. I’m not easily fazed by distance but even for me it seemed like a gargantuan task. It also became very clear to me that if you can switch on your ‘Crocodile Brain’ running any type of Ultra becomes a lot easier and the only way to actually do these silly events is with CBMode fully engaged.
What is Crocodile Brain?
1. Crocodile Brain is when you succeed in removing all human emotion from the painful situation you’re in. I’ve never seen a Crocodile feel sorry for itself when an impala evades it when it comes rushing out of the water. I’ve also never seen a Crocodile complaining to its Crocodile friends when it’s hunger knocking because it hasn’t had a decent meal in days. Crocodiles also don’t cry when a Zebra kicks it in it’s head while crossing the river. Crocodiles just hang around and do what crocodiles do, which is honestly not much except chase the odd impala and scare tourists.
2. Crocodile Brain also means you have to get your Crocodile priorities right. Thinking is not one of these so you have to be prepared to deal with dumbing down substantially. This means you will look at the leader board showing how many laps you’ve done in your race and completely forgetting less than 200m down the track. You then go back, check again only to then ask bystanders if they have any idea how far you’ve run. Taking it one step further, Crocodiles don’t care what people think of them so when you get looks of pity because you’re obviously incredibly stupid, you probably won’t even notice.
3. Crocodiles pretty much have only one goal and that is to survive. So when a runner can manage to channel their inner crocodile the only goal is to get to the finish with as little as possible crying, hiding behind portaloos, feeling sorry for oneself or excuses for going slow, wrong or just being pathetic.
Benefits of Crocodile Brain:
1. If you can fully engage your Crocodile brain you’re probably an individual that will survive a Zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion because you will probably be able to blend in with the other zombies or be very undesirable for the aliens to abduct.
2. When your crocodile brain is active you don’t care what people think about you so it’s very good for your self-esteem. Crocodiles don’t care if the hippos call them slow or stupid.
3. Other animals generally have more respect for crocodiles than for instance monkeys, and this is almost the same with runners. If you don’t complain and just carry on with your business making your way to the finish line, it goes down a lot better than attention seeking monkeys that throw temper tantrums about short routes, dusty tracks or water that is not ice cold.
4. The biggest benefit of Crocodile brain is that it’s not like an Elephant brain that ‘remembers’. The day after your effort you will have forgotten how difficult it was and you’re ready to take on your next challenge. Unfortunately this particular crocodile has a cold so can’t go out and run again just yet.
This may not make any sense to most people but there is a small group of ultra-runners that will understand the mental demands involved in doing any type of long distance event. I somehow always end up creating some completely ridiculous story in my head and every time I do an Ultra event I realise the importance of having fun. Above all else the most important thing for me to achieve while running is happiness. I don’t care about results or top ten finishes, I care about learning something new every time I put on my running shoes, meeting likeminded people, exploring the boundaries my mind puts up and the limits of my physical abilities. Doing Ultras and running far surprises me every time and the prospect of the miles to come and what I can learn from them is one of the biggest driving forces in my life! See you on the trail/track/tar!