Saturday, December 23, 2017

Dream Log: Reporting on Long-Distance Mountain Running and Women's Gymnastics

Lately I've been dreaming a lot about running. Very vivid dreams. In the dreams, the difficulty and exertion have been very vivid too, but still, the running is exhilarating, and the dreams make me more and more determined to get in shape enough to run at an advanced level in real life.

Last night I dreamed that I was covering a long-distance, high-altitude running event in the European Alps. I went there to participate in the running as well as write about it. Right from the start, I was confused about the rules. The other runners knew I was covering the event as a writer. Most of them were distrustful of me and made no attempt to hide how they regarded me as an outsider and a threat. There were a few exceptions, runners who were friendly toward me -- but only a few.

I was really completely uninformed about what we were doing. For one thing, I wasn't sure how long the event was going to last -- all day? Several days? Dozens of miles? Hundreds of miles?

After I had run for a while, race officials stopped me and said that I had to wait here for ten minutes. We were in a little meadow between cliffs; other runners were resting there. It was unclear to me whether all of the runners were going to start again together, or whether each individual waited for exactly ten minutes. In any case, after I was running again, I saw some other well ahead of me, and gaining visibly, although we were making a steep climb and no-one was going very fast. One of my competitors who was friendly mentioned to me that this stage of the race involved a gain of altitude of two thousand feet, so that I might want to be careful and pace myself. There was a small flag of France below the collar of his jersey. I thanked him, but said that I wanted to run the very fastest race I possibly could, no matter how difficult it might be. He laughed, gave me a friendly smack on the back, and then darted well ahead of me.

The next stopping point was at a luxury hotel. Other runners were sitting in a room which was very bare and white, and stared at me with frank hostility. I could smell very good smells coming from a gourmet kitchen, and I wondered whether we runners were going to get some gourmet food.

Then everything got very hazy, and I lost consciousness. When I came to I was in a hospital bed in what seemed to be an emergency room. A doctor who spoke excellent English with a French accent asked me what I remembered, and told me that I had taken a great fall, and was very fortunate to have landed in a grassy area rather than a rocky area. He asked whether I had trained at high altitude before this race. I said no. He said that it was very important, if I ever competed in an event like this again, that I train extensively beforehand at very high altitudes. "Extensively," he repeated. I thanked him for his advice, but he turned away with the deeply annoyed manner of a man who is used to giving good advice and seeing it go unheeded.

Next, I was in Madison Square Garden to write about a women's gymnastics event. The event organizers were nervous about investigative journalists covering the event, because of the recent scandal surrounding Larry Nassar. They seemed to relax when they saw me, because I'm an essayist, and they therefore seemed to assume that I was not going to cover the event negatively.

I felt that they were wrong to relax about me, because I had a lot of very pointed questions about whether the sport provided cover and protection for sexual predators, and also about whether and to what extent the competitors were harming their health and stunting their growth by malnutrition. But before I could get down to any investigation, I woke up.

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