Eight years ago this week, I received my first opportunity to cover a major national event … and thus my first experience with, for an extended period of time, working to the limit.
I flew to Denver to report from the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the eventual nomination of our current president, Barack Obama. I operated by myself in a sea of tens of thousands, lugged 50 pounds of equipment to and from my workspace each day, turned roughly a dozen stories, and used any brief window of free time to gobble down enough food to sustain me for the next few hours.
Exhausting, right? Not enjoyable at all, right?
And yet, when I returned home, I wrote this — in all sincerity — to my boss:
This was one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life. I ended up working some 60 hours in four days in Denver, and it was partly because I kept looking for new things to cover, because I didn’t want to waste a minute of the experience.
Yup. When the work is that riveting, I actually crave it. And as I stare into my immediate future, I spy another extended brush with extended hours:
On Saturday I head to Rio de Janeiro to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics.
I have taken this assignment twice before, and each time I have authored blog posts that echo my e-mail from 2008. At the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, I wrote an entry saying this:
I don’t think a day has gone by yet where I have worked less than 10 hours; on average, they run about 12-13. Meals generally consist of scarfing down food at your workspace, hoping not to spill it on your tapes or computer, and in my case I spend several hours a day lugging around a 20-pound camera, a nearly-as-heavy tripod, and a definitely-as-heavy equipment bag.
And yet, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having an absolute blast.
Four years later I traveled to Sochi, Russia, and upped my average workday to 15 hours. Here’s what I wrote in my final dispatch:
I am nearing the end of Week 3, which means I am in many ways fading. My back, shoulders, and calves feel absolutely spent. My eyelids can barely keep from drooping. I keep pondering the idea of dropping 1,000 rubles into the nearest massage chair and letting it go to town for an hour.
But then I walk around the Olympic park, take in a medal ceremony, watch an event, or just look around at the picturesque Sochi scenery.
In those moments, it’s hard to say goodbye.
Now, as I prepare for my third Olympic go-round, I already know how my workload will feel.
And, as usual, I can’t wait.
These Olympics already seem different in that, for months, they have been hampered by backlash. I have already learned far more than I had planned about bottled water, Brazilian crime, and, of course, Zika. I have received a three-course meal of briefings, warnings, and advisories. I have taken each one seriously, wanting to prepare and protect myself however necessary. We went through similar training before the Sochi Games, and I genuinely appreciated my bosses’ efforts to keep me safe and secure. I feel that way again with the Rio Games, and I hope for a similarly uneventful three weeks.
Except for the events themselves.
I feel excited and ready for another go-round of the grind. I look forward to bringing you as many stories as I can tell, and I will attempt to write new entries in this space every weekday. I will also offer extensive reports and behind-the-scenes looks on Facebook and Twitter, and I encourage you to reach out to me on social media and let me know what you think!
Mostly, I hope you enjoy the coverage. I’m ready to work to the limit to provide it.
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.