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Master Chief in Sneakers: Making Life Not Suck

Russ Pitts | 8 Apr 2008 12:16
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Apple Man tells me I'm halfway to my goal. I imagine him sitting in a mesh-backed Aero chair in his dimly-lit, spacious Palo Alto cubicle as he says this. I want to run all the way there and punch him in the teeth. He fuels my fire, does his part, and I kick. Apple Man, I'm coming for you. Just you wait. Just you wait.

Revenge of the Fat Kid
Nike calls it "a new way to run," which is about as insightful as sticking a feather in your cap and calling it macaroni. Nike+iPod is not a new way to run. You're still running the old fashioned way - putting one foot in front of the other and remembering to breathe - but running with the Nike+iPod device is a lot more fun than doing it alone.

The Nike+ system consists of two parts: the accelerometer/transmitter and the receiver. The accelerometer goes in your shoe, where, if you've bought the Nike+ shoe, there's a small pocket under the insole. (If you have a non-Nike+ shoe, you'll have to break out the X-acto knife or the duct tape.) The receiver plugs into the bottom of an iPod Nano and receives telemetry from the accelerometer, determining how fast, how far and how long you've been running, then tallies all of this data this at the end of your run. It calculates how many calories you've burned, compares it to stored data and gives you feedback. Meanwhile, you can build a playlist from your iTunes library and hit a button for an instant "power song" when you're feeling less than motivated. It's like having 20 bands and a mathematician as running partners, minus the cloud of ganja smoke and the pocket protector.

With my iPod strapped to my arm I feel like a Cyborg running machine; Master Chief in sneakers. I feel like a patriot in the geek/jock revolution. I should load "We Are The Champions" on my iPod, play it when I hit the streets and gloat. Running may never correct the permanent curvature of my spine from endless hours of hunching over a keyboard/console/book that defined the first 30 years of my life, but at least I can run flat out for just over a quarter mile at the end of a three mile run. When I was in middle school it took me a half an hour to run a mile, well below the mark for the Presidential Fitness Medal. Now I can do it in eight. Take that, Ronald Regan. Revenge of the fat kid.

We feel good when we're good at something, or when we're told we're good, and feeling good makes us want to feel more good, so we try even harder. This is why we enjoy games, where obstacles are set before us in increasing difficulty, and - if the game is any good - we're never in over our heads. Nike+ uses the same principles to convince me I'm good at running. The result: I get good at running. I level up.

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