Running and the Economy: Part 2


Let's see...carry the 4...oh holy God. I only have like 2 toenails left.

WEATHER: Cool and autumnal and fantastic.

MILES: 0

MILES THIS WEEK: Enough.

WHERE TO: Nowhere!

MOOD: SO EXCITED!

TODAY’S RUNNING SONG: Today we have TWO, as an all-out tribute to Usher, who is the fuel that gets me through many a run.

News item #1: I AM IN FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON!  Eat it, stupid people for whom the website didn’t crash during registration last year.  EAT IT.  I am going to find you and slap you with a sweaty running singlet.  And you will love it.

News item #2: OK, so are you like me, and have you been running with gels in the sports bra, between the boobs?  And it causes discomfort and paper foil cuts?  And it sucks?  PROBLEM SOLVED: carry them in the side-boobal area.  No kidding.  I discovered this last weekend.  You’re welcome.

So we’re hitting the insane-mileage portion of the ultra training schedule, which means I’m full of aches and pains. Long story short, the more my Achilles tendons feel like snapping, the more I feel like snapping.  (People who deal with me: I am so sorry.)

Seeing me limping around, unable to really bend my ankle joints, a friend of mine whom I shall refer to as Ginger asked me, “Uh, why do you keep running?”  Now, you see, whenever someone asks me something in the “worried voice,” I usually smile perkily and say something to the effect of “Don’t worry!  The moment running starts altering the rest of my life is the moment I stop!  Sunshine daisies glitter hummingbirds bullshit! Kablammo!”

And because I sometimes reach with my analogies, I decided that this was the perfect segue into economics and running.

Because duh.  Let’s not be naive.  If you’re training seriously for anything, it most certainly is altering the rest of your life, as it is taking time away from something else.  You could be sleeping less.  You could be watching less Ally McBeal on Netflix Instant View (YOU GUYS. I can barely leave the house anymore because of this.).  There are trade-offs, and this is one of the basic principles of economics.  Let’s look at a production possibility frontier to explain, shall we?

This PPF illustrates the production possibilities in a very simple economy that produces only two goods: guns and butter. Economists like to use the ol’ guns-vs.-butter PPF, because economists apparently come from a land where you stand around all day but then occasionally pull out your Smith & Wesson to shoot at passing deer.  Once you do hit one, you calmly pull a stick of Land O’Lakes out of your knapsack and meditatively gnaw on it, because there’s really nothing else to do in this godforsaken country except die of a coronary.  Or shoot at sticks of butter.

Anyway. The blue curve illustrates full production capacity, and also illustrates the fact that if you make more guns, you make less butter.  If the economy is anywhere inside the curve — say, at point 1 — it is operating inefficiently and not at full capacity.  If it’s at point 2, it’s rocking away at full capacity.

Simple enough.  OK.  So let’s look at how this applies to running:

OK.  So the goal of running, as I see it, is to keep on the blue line.  As the diagram clearly shows, if you train for a 5-K, you have more time for “everything else” because you’re not running a lot.  But you’re doing great!  Productivity in other areas!  Congratulations!  Likewise, if you’re training for a marathon, you have less time for drinking and carousing and fornicating reading your Bible.  And likewise again, if you’re training for an ultra, for example, you have less time for sleep and not-eating-Gu.

On the other hand, getting off of the blue line is much worse. If you stay in for hours/days/years with your face stuck in a fantasy novel, for example, you suddenly produce nothing, aside from flatulence and violent desires to inhabit a world of elves and dwarves and gnomes, because by God the fairy princess will understand you, even if that cute barista at the coffee shop considers your body odor off-putting. Likewise, various substances can send you out past the blue line and into the stratosphere of “wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEE!”  Which is all fun and games until your head explodes or, in the case of Four Loko, you grab a cop’s nightstick and start air-guitar-ing with it.  No fun for anyone.

So the choice then is to pick a spot on that blue line, and that’s when the tough part comes in.  I mean, full productivity is great, but if a lot of what you’re producing is mileage — which is awesome — then you’re not producing, say, a bestselling novel.  Or that Ikea bookshelf whose box has been sitting in your living room for weeks.  Or a social life.  And sometimes that’s tough to cope with.  Because what — are you going to make friends on the trail?  Is that really a plan?  Are you going to meet that special someone out on the C&O next weekend?  How is that going to work?  Oh God WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE, YOU MAGNIFICENT-THIGHED OUTCAST?

OK, so here is where we take a deep breath and grab a bottle of wine.  It’s all fine.  Things work out for kind, fantastic, hard-working people like you.  You love running, and you will find that superhottie.  You can have it all.  Let’s drink a few more glasses and draw what that will look like:

I feel more hopeful already.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bear on September 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    LOL!!! Best. graph. ever. (last graph)

    Reply

  2. Posted by Doris on September 17, 2011 at 11:24 am

    LOL!! I’m speechless! I’m thinking about printing that graph out and carrying it around in my pocket.

    Reply

  3. Posted by EmGusk on September 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Who trains for a 5k? Also let Ryan know I say what’s up and I’ll have his babies.

    Reply

  4. SONG OF ICE AND FIRE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.
    Yes, but now I wonder – are you nerdy enough to sit around discussing theories and quoting choice lines from any of the 4826154984 pages Martin has written so far? I dont know. You may have a life.

    Reply

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