Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Economic Value of Finishing the Western States 100m Endurance Run? About $109.09...

When Jared Hazen put his Western States Endurance Run silver buckle on an eBay auction last week (well earned from his 17:29 14th place finish in 2014), he involuntarily showed us an estimated economic value for finishing the iconic 100-mile foot race in under 24 hours. It turns out to be ~$109.09. That's right, roughly a dollar and some pennies per mile. WTF?!?

Certainly we would agree that every mile of States is worth more than a buck and change. Some (i.e., me) would say it's at least 100x that value, perhaps even a unicorn-worthy 1000x valuation if you fail 9+ lotteries like me (ha, ha).  But if you look at the clearing price of the auction of $519.09, it is a stake in the ground of sorts. The cost to enter Western States is $410. This, of course, doesn't take into account the costs of running a qualifying race, or the less than 5% chance you actually get into the race via lottery with one ticket, but for simplicity let's just call it $410. That means the value is $519.09 - $410 = $109.09. Wow.

That CAN'T be right. It feels discounted, yes? In your gut, does that price feel even close?!? No, it does not, and for good reason. The math here doesn't work due to one primary flaw - it perfectly ignores how that item achieved value in the first place. What we are really talking about is the price of a "unearned" buckle, the equivalent of a Louis Vuitton replica handbag. It denies all the emotional value of pursuing and finishing the challenge for which it was forged, similar to how a knock off does not achieve the satisfaction of being so wealthy you can disconnect from reality and spend ten grand on a fucking handbag. Owning an unearned buckle might SAY what you want, but it actually MEANS nothing. What Jared has actually shown us is little more than the value of hubris. Turns out, it's not worth much at all.

I secretly hope that the auction winner just holds onto this buckle for the day Jared is willing to pay thousands to get it back. A 10x return in five years? It's definitely plausible. Damn, maybe I should have bid on that buckle. ;-)