Running New York

Ha! That headline probably got you thinking this was a post about?Governor Cuomo.? It’s not.? It’s about an economist trying to keep fit despite the rising demands of work, parenthood, and the shrinking supply of energy that comes in your mid- to late thirties.

Sunday is the?New York marathon, and I’ll be out there running through the five boroughs.? Twenty six point two miles is a heckuva long way.? But five boroughs – five boroughs! – somehow seems even further.? It’s all a bit daunting.? But exciting, too.

Okay, there should be some economics in a post on an econo-blog.? So here goes.?Ian Ayres has recently been writing about the?the value of public commitments.? I’ll play along.? I’m hoping to finish in under four hours.? I’ve never done it before, and there’s no reason to think that This Time Is Different.? But that’s my goal.? And now you know it, too.? I’m hoping this has a real effect: If I find myself on-target as I hit?the wall crossing from the Bronx into Manhattan, hopefully I’ll grit my teeth, remembering this public statement.? And this commitment has teeth because performance is verifiable: You can track my progress on the NYC marathon website on Sunday (I’m bib number 21042).? This commitment may sound like I’m trying to motivate myself with sticks – that the shame of failure will spur me on.? But it’s not.? This commitment is really a carrot.? I’m looking forward to my friends seeing that I’m not as slow as I look.

And to our New York readers: If you are out watching the marathon on Sunday and see a tired-looking economist with long blond hair wishing that he had trained harder, give me a shout out – I’ll need the boost!? But don’t just shout “Go Justin!” – that could be anyone (my name is on my shirt).? I want to know?if any blog readers recognize me, so I’ll be waiting to hear “Go Economist.”? While you may be powerless to cause the economy to speed up, your shout-out might cause an economist to speed up.? And I’ll be grateful.

Ian Kemmish

My rule of thumb is that if you announce it beforehand, it's a stick. it would be a carrot if you kept to yourself the delicious anticipation of your friends' reactions when you without warning achieve the impossible.


Good luck and enjoy!

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and start off too fast. My best advice to you is to start out a slower so you'll have more energy in reserve to finish strong. Otherwise it will feel like a death march once you arrive in Manhattan.

science minded

pace yourself.


Excellent idea, both running the marathon and the commitment announcement. I look forward to seeing how it all turns out. All the best in your run!

Eric M. Jones


- Scott

You may be one of the few to actually reach their stated marathon goal. I've been around marathons and marathoners since the 70s and have seen time after time an optimism bias that leads to almost unattainable target times. If everything goes right, then viola you make your goal. BUT so many things can go wrong in the almost four hours of running near your limit. I've never run a marathon in which the crowds, hills, wind, and pacing errors didn't slow me down just a bit more than I expected. Good luck may the gods of the marathon smile upon you. Go economist!


Hey - 4 hours of misery, a Lifetime of glory.

Dan G

good luck. NYC Marathon is not the place to try to PR, too much running in a que, which slows you down, and too many hills. The philly marathon, however, is nice and flat, and not very crowded.


Do not.. REPEAT ..Do not go out too fast...
Keep to your splits...

and Go Economist !!!


I am not in NY or nearby and so I hope that as I watch the leading pack on TV, I will recall that you are not too far behind. Good luck and thanks for taking a break from drawing models and reviewing data to do something different that is as interesting and certainly as difficult.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

Up to 90% of participants of marathons suffer a debilitating injury from either the race or the long arduous training preparation. (Actually more are injured in preparation)

By contrast the rate of Soldier death or uninjury during the height of the Iraq Insurgency in 2006 was 2% death and 20% injury.

Humans were not meant to run 26.2 miles all at once. Why not 10 miles or 40 miles or 400 miles?

Just because a mob does it doesn't mean it is safe.
Better to walk 2.6 miles a day, everyday of your life.

Are you prepared to be injured? I hope you are in the lucky 10%.

I see the stock price of Johnson and Johnson (maker of Band Aids) and Ibuprofen going up next week.


Go Economist!
I ran the Marine Corps Marathon last weekend; my first but definitely not my last. Good luck with 4 hours!
Now I'll have to tell people that if they see some guy in a race with blond hair and ponytail I'm the one who isn't the economist.


In response to Drill-Baby-Drill: The high injury rate for marathon training is likely also due to an optimism bias. People are training too far, too fast, too soon. The muscular and skeletal adaptations for racing 26.2 mile race take place over years not months.


@Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

You're comparing a structured organization with doctors, administrators, governance and (perhaps most importantly) liability with a random assortment of people. It would be a disaster if the military weren't a bit more disciplined and had better results than random people trying to attain something that a small percentage of the population is physically capable of attaining.

Related note: Barefoot distance runners have far fewer injuries than those that wear "running" shoes. Perhaps evolution designed a better foot than Nike.


Nice random .jpg link.


I know what you mean! I have a triathlon in a week, after being absent for 5 years. My goal is to complete it in the same time I did 5 years ago and I announced that to friends and family! I now feel the commitment to do so! This time part of my training included working on the "playfield between my ears" that place where most athletes lose their races even before we get to the start line. On Gary Mack's book Mind Gym he writes "It has been said that thoughts become words, Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character. Character becomes your destiny". Announcing your goals to the world is just part of the process :)
Good Luck!

Bobby G

Justin, I like your attitude, and so I will offer another form of motivation to you: if you fail your task, you can force yourself to send me $100.

Now you have a financial motivation as well! Go Economist!

Mark Remy

Justin! I didn't know you were running NYC! Best of luck to you, my virtual friend.

Panem et Circanses

When oh when will recreational amrathoners take off their attitudes of implicit superiority? By the way, I played in a bridge tournament...

David Gobel

You will get plenty of shout outs- approximately 2 million people line the course
I have run NYC marathon 5xs and when you get past 20 miles, it is not about carrots and sticks-it is very personal
you are making your race public-could be a mistake
As a marathoner, I love the feeling of being a part of a mass of runners-somehow the anonymity makes it a deeper experience of sharing place and time