The Diderot Phenomenon of Running

by On Sep 9, 2016

I'm not addicted to running, We are just in a very committed relationship.

The Diderot Phenomenon of Running

I love running. I spent a lot of time on the sport by planning my routes and races more than the goals that lay ahead of me, like my wedding in the 4th quarter of the year; and the things I possess.

I find it beautiful that I embrace running as my hobby and love. But am also intrigued by my actions and it is the same for all the runner folks who prefer the dri-fit singlet than the buttoned cotton shirt.

One day, I was having breakfast at a hawker center with my friends after the compressport run in end July.

We commented on how much we can spend in a year, just on inclusion into running races, which happens almost every week of each year. Thus, projecting my thoughts about this particular phenomenon, which is so addictive that no one realised they are hooked on it.

There are many reasons why we may invest or rather overspend on running races and merchandising. Some motivations are incurred by the awareness of a healthy movement.

But other causes seem to spring from our internal enthusiastic features of “wanting to be there” when the race comes or needing to look good on the race day.

I call this the Diderot effect. The Diderot effect is the unseen motivation of over-consumption, often irrational or compulsive. The term was made famous by Denis Diderot, a 16th century French thinker, who received a dressing gown as a gift, leading to unexpected results, compared to the new dressing gown, his other possessions appeared dull and boring, so he began replacing them, eventually plunging himself into debt. Initially pleased with the gift, Diderot came to rue his new garment.

This is why when we purchase one new item, it often leads to another.

The Diderot Phenomenon of Running

Photo Credit: 123RF

Here’s how runners possess the effect.

  • You buy a new pair of branded running shoes and immediately begin to look for the same brand of apparel and shorts to match.
  • When you start running on the new shoes, almost as quick as our runkeeper is ticking off the miles, you want to buy another pair of running shoes of different performance (say, a lightweight racer).
  • You intend to join a race in May this year, and as soon as you make payment for the registration, you start browsing for races in June to August. At worst, it could be an overseas marathon with hundreds of dollars spend just for the travel. The registration fees have not been factored in yet.
  • You start to stock up energy gels, when you realise you had already bought a boxful of those gluey edibles a month back.
  • You are not too sure if you can be trendy enough with those wireless earphones and GPS watches. (I had 3 earphones for running!)
  • You bought black compression calf sleeves, and then realised you needed green ones to match your green Nike running singlet.

I was told that running is one of the economical-friendly sports, compared to golf and baseball. However, I was wrong in all directions, especially with the emergence of wearable gadgets that track your being while on route; the so-called technology-enhanced fabrics on the singlet makes you want to dig into your pockets further for the extra dimes to purchase.

In reality, we possess enough running shoes and drawers full of sport apparel and compression tights but because something new has been introduced into our lives, we were immediately drawn into a never-end spiraling consumption.

Our participation in turn generates a mini-economy in the running business with so many races bursting onto the running scene these last 2 years and organised EVERY week!

Apart from the established marathons with a long organising history, like the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), smaller thematic races like the Hello Kitty race and Garfield run emerges to feed on our further consumption.

Perhaps goodie packs lure us into amplifying the phenomenon. When you realise, you have to wake up almost every weekend at 4 a.m. for 3 consecutive months to be at the starting line, I started to think why are there so many races organised on all weekends?

Why can’t they do one a month, like other countries do? I think it is because of roadrunners like us who fuel this phenomenon.

Continuing to Enjoy the Sports Smartly

Before you realise you are spending too much, I think I can share some methods to manage your pocket, yet still enjoy the sport. (But hey, I am on your side guys, I am still fighting off the addiction.)

The Diderot Phenomenon of Running

Photo Credit: 123RF

  1. Being aware and alert on the planning of races. Manage the races that you wish to join, with financial common sense. For instance, in my interpretation, I would, at times, forgo 10km races that cost more than 60 dollars.
  2. Analyse and predict future purchases. If you know that you will join more running events, do not purchase running singlets anymore since you are getting them for “free” as part of the race pack.
  3. Choose bananas and/or red bulls. The total adds up to less than 2 bucks anyways.
  4. Avoid buying new stuff, just because other runners have it. I don’t have Garmin watches and prefer to run with runkeeper apps on my phone.
  5. Having an abundance of running gear does not make you look and behave like a runner. Those possessions do not define how fast you have clocked, no matter what the salesman told you.
  6. Purchase things that you find useful (in other words, self control) there are no reasons why you need to buy new earphones when the other ones work just fine and you need not impress others with your new kicks.

I sincerely hope that my thoughts will not offend any runners whom I have met and crossed paths along the many races I have joined. You do not need to kick yourself into a financial rehab; do what you love but appreciate your wallets and your bank accounts more than the running bug. Be that wise roadrunner in the races to come.

There is a saying: “Less is more”, run more, own less.

Since 2013, Gilbert joined his first half-marathon, since the last in 8 years, with the thoughts of challenging his limits in running. Despite the plus-size physique, and weighs more than 70kg, unlike most runners, he continues to push boundaries on the route. Gilbert continues to compete himself in many races since, and the motivation to keep up with a regular running routine. By day, he works in an architectural practice and by evening, he don his tights and track shoes. Now covering distances at least twice a week for his regular training regime, he find time and joy running along his regular route around the city. Gilbert hopes to run his own architectural practice, with a bistro fronting his office.

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