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Meet Eleanor!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, I am 45, single, living a slightly more residential area of Tokyo, Japan, but my office is just outside the #1 busiest train station in the world (pre-Covid, it averaged 3.65 million people a day through the station).  I love music and am an alto in a choir (well, when not helping the tenors), do jigsaw puzzles, and read a lot.

What’s your favorite way to get your miles?

Walking and hiking.  This year all my miles have been on walks, mostly around my neighborhood.  When I first joined the 365 Mile Challenge, I was hiking a lot more and got most of my miles that way.  I want to get back into enough shape to hike again at some point (and to fit my hiking trousers!).

We love all of your pictures from Japan! Have you always lived there?

No, I was born and grew up in Elmira, N.Y., and then went to college on the shore of Seneca Lake at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva, N.Y.  I have been in Japan for 22.5 years, arriving when I was 23.  I lived in Utsunomiya, in Tochigi prefecture, my first 14.5 years here and have been in Tokyo the last 8 years.  I arrived in June 1998 for a one-year teaching stint and planned to figure out what I wanted to be “when I grow up” so I could go pursue that after that year was up.  As life does, things changed, there were some ups and downs, but here I am still.  After 17 years as a teacher, I am now working in the English-test industry as a test-item editor. 

What’s your favorite outdoor memory?

There are so many . . . but I think it may be my climb of Tanigawa-dake, supposedly, by some counting methods, the deadliest mountain in the world–a fact I could not forget while climbing up, though the route we took, as challenging as it was, was not the most difficult one, apparently, nor the easiest one either.  A friend took me to hike there, and, boy, was it at my limit of ability, but not past my limit.  Some of the chain sections . . . um, yeah.  We hiked up the whole way in mist and fog, but just as we reached the top, there was a perfectly-timed wind that came and blew all the cloud and fog away and there before us was the most beautiful view of the surrounding mountains in fall colours.  I was on top of the world!

Do you have a “disaster” story? 

Oh, I do….in October 2013, I had just taken up hiking over the summer.  I knew I could walk a lot, and had done a 27km walk that previous summer, so I set off on a hike I found in a fairly old book about hikes near Tokyo.  I only had the much less-than-adequate map in the book.  I didn’t know better then.  So I set off on a 22 km ridge hike which, I now know, is a lot different than a 27km, flat city walk.  I got lost once and had to retrace my steps, which took about 2 hours of time.  At around 5pm, I hit a point where, not only was I exhausted and the sun setting, but I was not sure whether to turn right or left–they both looked like trail to me and there was no marker.  I should add, not only was I fairly new to hiking, but there had been a typhoon four days before so the trails were not clear, as they usually are.  So, confused and tired and a bit scared, I called a friend, near tears, and asked her if I should go left or right–she was in her office in Yokohama.  She, once getting out of me what the full situation was, called the local police for where I was and then.  I was told to stay put where I was, so did.  It took them a bit to get organized but the police sent out a searching party at 8:30 pm and found me around 3 am.  I hiked out the next three hours with the searching party, which really impressed them that I was calm and able to do so, and we got to the police station around 6:30 am, where my friend, who from the time I called her until I was found, had texted or called me every 20-30 minutes to keep me calm, was waiting for me in her car.  The searching party had an even harder time finding me than they otherwise would have since I had no flashlight or whistle–I now NEVER hike, even short, familiar hikes, without an emergency blanket thingy, flashlight, whistle, and extra batteries for my phone, which luckily was the one thing I did have that day.

Luckily, I learned a lot from this 2013 rescue, and am much better equipped these days.

What have you always wanted to try?

An overnight hike–somewhere where I would be able to see the Milky Way.  That, and to hike Mt. Shirane in Tochigi Prefecture.

You have logged a lot of miles this year. Do you have any tips for success to share?

Small distances add up.  My miles this year have come from shorter walks only–the longest was maybe still under 10km.  

I would also add that there is plenty of beauty to be found close to home, even in the largest metropolis in the world, and walking around one’s neighborhood can be an adventure if you decide to make it one.

What are you looking forward to?

Honestly, being able to travel safely again–be it to take a train without worry to sightsee, walk, or hike, or to fly to Michigan to see my parents.

Are you enjoying the 365 Mile Challenge?

Yes!  Very much so.  I love seeing the posts of the other women and their achievements, and the beautiful places they have found or live.  I also love the positive encouragement from Val and the ambassadors, and the other members.  I also really appreciate that we have this group with its clear purpose and we all leave the outside issues outside and have this safe space to enjoy each other and nature and mile-getting.  This year, especially, it has been a welcome space to go when the rest of it all has gotten too much.

You are a big source of inspiration for the group. What inspires you?

Other women–women who have found healing, their voices, their passion, their calling, and/or who have found a way to share their experiences and strength to give hope and encouragement to others.

Is there anything that you want us to know about you?

My favorite post-hike thing to do is to have a long soak in an onsen (Japanese hot-spring bath), and to eat tenzaru soba (a temperature and soba noodle set). 

Anything that you’d like to add? 

Just to say that I love being a part of this group and how much I appreciate it.

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