Alex Hutchinson: How Much Is Too Much Innovation? -R4R 173
If you live in a developed country, you likely enjoy the benefits of being able to rely on government systems that protect you. You can walk outside and feel safe in your neighborhood, put money in your bank and have faith it will be safeguarded, or voice your opinion and not be punished.
You probably also follow a set of rules without much thought for the same reason. You don’t steal from others, drive backwards on the freeway, or shoot your neighbor’s dog after it poops on your lawn. To be fair, some of these scenarios are simply using your common sense. But have you been in a country with limited driving rules? Google “crazy driving in India” and you’ll see what I mean.
The point is, we rely on rules and regulations to protect us and help us make decisions. Luckily, we don’t have to think about the morality of every decision we make. Instead we can focus on working hard in our job, spending time with our family, or thinking of creative ways to keep that dumb dog out of our yard.
What the heck does this have to do with running?
A Controversial Shoe
Enter the Nike Vaporfly. We live in a world that is continuously looking for that next big thing to help us run faster. How can we lose more weight? How can we recover from injury? How can we avoid injury? These mainstream questions have people lining up to give their money away whenever a new product or study comes out.
A shoe that has created controversy for several reasons, the Vaporfly was one of the first to have a carbon fiber plate, acting almost as a spring for the runner’s foot. However, the way the shoe was first released was just as controversial when Nike made the shoe available to just a handful of elite runners.
Today, the Vaporfly has officially been allowed into the 2020 Olympics. Some athletes and media don’t agree with the decision, but the even bigger problem is how the shoe has been regulated thus far.
What Qualifies as Cheating?
Alex Hutchinson made his way on the show today for the third time. That sets a record for the Running for Real podcast, and for good reason. Alex is an amazing sports researcher, author, and journalist. Most recently he participated in a study riding a bike through the Italian Alps after putting on some funky headgear and experiencing brain stimulation.
Alex was also one of the first members of the public to try out the Vaporfly when he was sent a pair to write an article about them. Like many, he has had to make the decision of whether or not to use the shoe that promises at least a 1% improvement in your performance and a quicker recovery time.
Is it fair to use a shoe that makes your performance immediately better? Is it fair to use something that athletes in the past didn’t have access to? Is it fair to use something that other competitors don’t have access to today?
These are the hard questions. What actually qualifies as cheating? Is it cheating if you can get away with it? What if there is a loophole? Is this a matter of following rules or following your moral compass?
Leveling the Playing Field
How will Alex make his decision about running in his Vaporflys? Well, to him it’s about a product being available to everyone. His Vaporflys have been sitting on his shelf for a few years now, but as he trains for the London Marathon, he’s pretty sure that he’ll run in them.
Now that every major shoe company has some sort of carbon fiber shoe, the playing field has been leveled and running in this new shoe doesn’t feel like cheating. It’s up to the organizations to further determine what is fair.
Like everyone else, we don’t have all the answers, but these are questions worth thinking about. In the end we hope that the institutions set clear rules that promote good health and fair competition. That’s what it’s really about.
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Thank you to Alex, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.