A Very Long and Detailed Dream About Being Late for a Race

Dreams are the epitome of Boring Stories. Nobody is interested in hearing about a dream except for the person who had it. Which is why I am writing an entire blog post about one I had. I’d begun writing this at 5:15 am the morning of last Sunday’s 5K.


Self-portrait from 2011 that sort of works here

I was scheduled to run a race in what I think was Central Park but could have been Sunken Meadow or somewhere entirely different – either way, a huge park that looked both familiar and unlike any park I’d ever been to.

I’d had an earlier dream where I wanted to take a shower in an enormous bathroom only to discover that the shower curtain was missing. Naturally, this bathroom was filled with random people, so I opted not to take a shower, saying to no one in particular, “You’re just gonna have to put up with my smell,” because there was no way in hell I was going to take a shower in a crowded bathroom in a tub missing a shower curtain.

But I don’t think that had anything to do with this part of the dream. This race – which I am assuming was a half marathon or maybe even a 15K because I thought it would take me about an hour and a half to run it (realistic for a 15K but ambitious for a half marathon) – was supposed to begin at 9:30 am. According to my (analog?!) watch, it was 10:20. So already, things were looking none too promising.

But there were still plenty of runners ambling to the starting line, wherever that might be. I figured, as I assumed many of them did, that we didn’t necessarily have to be there for the gun, as the chips on our bibs would note when we crossed the start. In other words, we’d be credited for starting when we started. Nevertheless, as in real life, I was a little stressed about not being on time.

Of course, I couldn’t see the starting line or even knew where it was. I just followed the herds.


It was sunny out, and suddenly I realized I’d forgotten to put on sunscreen. I silently cursed to myself, wondering how much shade I’d be running under in this park. My father and sister have had bouts of skin cancer (this is true), so the risk of being exposed to the sun’s harmful rays is always in the back of my mind. (In fact, an earlier dream that morning had me with a ferociously bright red sunburn on my arms and chest after being outside for too long in a v-neck shirt.)

On my way to this mystery starting line, I passed by a few stone houses, the kind you find in Central Park that look like medieval cottages but are actually just houses for information stations and restrooms. I really had to pee, so I went into one of them.


I should note that I have a lot of dreams about peeing. A lot. I think this is because I literally always have to pee while I’m asleep. I usually drink a big glass of water or two before bed.

Inside, the stone house looked kind of like a typical rest stop along the interstate: brochure kiosks, vending machines, small store of essentials, restrooms, etc. It was deserted. Not one employee or runner to be found. I went into the ladies’ room and found a pink toilet to relieve myself in. As with all of my dreams about peeing, it did not look like a normal toilet – more like a toilet seat directly over a hole in the floor. Only pink. Good enough.

After using the facilities, I headed into the store for sunscreen. Given that there was not one soul around, I assumed the products were all free for the taking. So nice of them, I thought, browsing the assortment of sunscreens. In real life, I am actually very sensitive to certain sunscreen ingredients, especially oxybenzone. Years ago, I would break out from using sunscreens with this ingredient, so I’ve avoided them ever since. I only buy Neutrogena’s “sensitive skin” sunscreen, and any others I might use, I have to look at the list of ingredients first.

So that’s what I did here in the store, turning around each bottle to check for the dreaded oxybenzone. Unfortunately, every sunscreen contained it or some other weird things I didn’t feel good about putting on my skin. I ultimately opted not to use any at all. I figured my hat (which I have never actually worn in a race) would be good enough to at least shield my face.

Speaking of my hat, it was blue, but it wasn’t my Mets cap. It looked more like a painter’s cap. I’m convinced this is because the night before, I had seen a picture of Joan Benoit Samuelson winning the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984. She wore a white painter’s type cap for the race, taking it off and waving it at the crowd as she went on to one of the most famous race finishes in history.


I guess my brain just preferred blue.

Crossing my own finish line was looking more and more unlikely as I continued on my journey to this elusive race start. I’m not even sure what time it was at this point, but I seemed to care less the later I was. Then, another disaster struck: I realized I’d forgotten my arm band. I’d been carrying my phone in my hand this whole time. I hate holding things while I run, so the arm band relieves me of that. I sighed as I realized I’d have to hold my phone in my sweaty hand for what was going to be at least an hour and a half – if I ever found this damn starting line.

I thought that maybe I could put my phone under my hat for the race. I think I’ve read about people doing that? Sure, it was worth a try. I would do that. I would just have to remember not to take my hat off to wave at the crowd.

Then, of course, something else went wrong: I looked down and realized I was not wearing running shoes. Jesus, how could I have forgotten this? My sneakers – the most important part of my wardrobe. Completely forgotten. Instead I was wearing some kind of gray slipper-like shoes I don’t actually own in real life. The kind you wear to pad around in your house and maybe go get the mail. Also, my too-big white gym socks that I’d also forgot to change out of were all bunched up. I thought, shit, I have to go back to change and then I might as well get my arm band too. I turned around to head back to wherever it was I lived. I was just going to be very late for this race.

I don’t remember much after that, other than I peed again somewhere. I really had to pee. I think I peed three times?

Then I woke up and headed straight for the bathroom.

In reality, I had over two hours to get ready. I put on sunscreen. I got to the race early. I peed in normal toilets. And I didn’t forget anything. I wound up having a great run, achieving a new 5K PR that day.

Thanks, anxiety!


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