I passed the 4,000 mile mark today with my trusty Nike +. I knew I was going to do it with this run, and I was excited to plug my iPod in to confirm my achievement. When I passed the last milestone, at 3,000, it was the highest category, I was certain I leveled to the highest class. When I plugged it in, I was taken back 22 years to Mount Fuji.
I spent the summer of my junior year of college on a management study tour of Japan. Six weeks in Tokyo living in a closet sized room, with a very convenient one piece bathroom sized just right to be packed with a twin in a Winnebago and touring factories. I have to admit the invention of the single piece of hardware to serve as a sink faucet and shower head was ingenious. My tour was to be evidenced by a research paper comparing and contrasting unions in Japan and America. I made sure I understood the distinctions in the culture by researching various model bars and all you can drink clubs on a nightly basis, guarantying a very Japanese hangover the following morning.
One night, I and a couple friends took a break from partying to climb Mount Fuji. Someone told us it was cool to see the sunrise from the top of the mountain. Having seen many sunrises from the bottom of Ropongi, I figured this could be an improvement. Before you start to think the climb is connected to completing my 4000'th mile by athleticism, I must explain, climbing mount fuji is much more like riding a Segway through Venice Beach than conquering Kilimanjaro. We heard it would be cold, so we put on a couple of layers of clothes, stocked up on flasks of Whiskey and jumped on the bus to the foot of the mountain. A trailhead as wide about as wide as a ten lane freeway wound its way from the parking lot up the side of the mountain. We stopped at the small stand and bought our walking sticks and passed on the water bottles. This was the first of many stands up the mountain where you could buy water and burn an imprint into your walking stick which either indicated the height you achieved on the mountain or some kind of cruel commentary on your decision to hike up a mountain in the dark. I couldn't tell, it was Japanese.
We made it up to the first checkpoint and proudly presented our sticks for burning. It think the altitude was 50 meters. I noticed the bottles of water we did not want to carry were more 500 yen more expensive than at the bottom. We were moving strong and walking up the well defined path, holding our place in the crowd. It was not quite as crowded as a New York sidewalk, but it would not take many more people to get there. As we passed the second and third checkpoints we started to get cold, and tired. Whiskey was not the best idea as it was clearly contributing to both. By the time we got to the half way point, the water was a good 5,000 yen more than it was at the bottom and we were regularly being passed by little old ladies who were 85 years old if they were a day.
So how does Mount Fuli tie to running? When I plugged in today I noticed 4,000 was no longer the highest level. Nike's new expansion pack to the achievements all the way up to 10,000 and there were half a dozen people in the category. I am sure 4 of them are over 85.