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The cost of running

How much does it cost to take up running?

The easy answer is in the outlay of money. You need to buy a pair of shoes. And the debate over what kind of shoes ranges from dealing with stability and performance to minimalist shoes. You probably also need socks. Perhaps a pair of shorts, a top and for women a good sports bra. And if you want to then race, there are entry fees.

It can add up depending how much you want to spend but at it's base, running is a relatively inexpensive sport.

At least that's what I thought.

Until I read a commentary from economist Justin Wolfers.

The piece ran on NPR's Marketplace this week. In it, Wolfers points out that the true "cost" of something isn't just in the outlay of money, but in the outlay of time. It's something economists call the "opportunity cost."

The time you spend doing your hobby, whether it be running or gardening or reading, is time you could be doing something else -- like making money or finding ways to save money.

Wolfers estimates his 16-hour a week running program comes at an "opportunity cost" of several thousand dollars.

In the end, he concludes his running time is worthwhile, that it has value to him. The decision to run, he said, is a "no-brainer."

The commentary caught the eye of Mark Remy at Runners World who offered his own response, noting that for runners it's not a "zero-sum thing. An hour spent running isn't an hour 'lost,' it's an hour invested."

There are plenty of times when the thought "those are two hours of my life I'll never get back," have crept into my mind. But running, cycling and swimming are hours that bring no regret. It's not just the increased health and fitness but the general sense of well-being. Coaches refer to them as intangibles and fitness activities can certainly help bring about a sense of focus, clarity, productivity and strength.

Really, the question is what is the cost of not being active? What is the cost of not pursuing your passion and joy?

--- Amy Moritz
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