Justin Wolfers is an economist and a runner. He takes umbrage to the assertion by Runners World magazine that marathon running is a cheap sport – a pair of runners and you’re in.
Wolfers has a need to factor opportunity cost into his running:
…the true cost of something is the alternative you have to give up.So each hour that I spend running is an hour that I don’t spend hanging out, working, or sleeping. How do I choose? Following economic theory, I keep doing an activity only as long as it yields greater benefits than the alternative.
And as I spend my hours slugging out the miles, I’m forced to confront my choices. Instead of sweating it out on the trails, I could take on extra teaching and earn a few extra bucks. And so going running costs me good money.
The same logic applies to you. Each hour you spend on your hobby is an hour you don’t spend working harder to get a promotion, studying for a degree, or shopping around for the cheapest groceries.
Wolfers is, in my humble opinion, starting from the false premise that there is a “next best alternative forgone as the result of making a decision [to run].”
Each activity in which we engage can be judged as time ‘not engaged’ in another activity, but only if we are operating within a paradigm of lack, a place of clinging and greed. If we operate, however, within a paradigm of bounty, of gratitude and simplicity, each activity we choose has/is opportunity benefit.
Opportunity benefit is the only window from which I see my running. I enhance my heart health and that of my entire cardiorespiratory system. I burn excess calories, allowing me to occasionally indulge in foods I might not otherwise. I sleep better as a result of this activity and I handle my everyday stresses better. While I am running I meditate and enjoy the myriad of benefits this accrues. Running on a regular basis allows me to develop a stronger sense of self-discipline and to hone my skills at self-motivation. I end each run with a sense of accomplishment and can clearly track my progress physically, mentally and spiritually.
Economic theory as the driving force, where dollar-generating endeavours are the end-all and be-all of existence or at least the measure against which all activity is judged, is not a place I ever wish to be.
I am happy to run today, here and now, in what I am and what I have. There are no forgone alternatives in my running. It is my opportunity to let go and lighten up.
What do you think: opportunity benefit or opportunity cost running?