I didn’t eat avocados until I discovered them in college. My mom didn’t like them so she never served them. I didn’t realize how safe I felt with a scarf around my neck until I studied abroad in France where scarves were practically a uniform. Whether it’s what we eat or what we wear, it often takes being presented with other options before we break our habits. This is why marketing science developed.
In a recent New York Times article, “Why trying new things is so hard,” Harvard economics professor says, “Trying something new can be painful: I might not like what I get and must forgo something I already enjoy. That cost is immediate, while any benefits—even if they are large—will be enjoyed in a future that feels abstract and distant.”
Having curated boxes delivered to your doorstep, whether it’s Blue Apron meals or Stitch Fix outfits, is a new luxury for those of us too busy, too overwhelmed with options, and too stuck in our ways to try something new. Columbus Running Company co-founder Matt DeLeon decided the same should be done for runners. Launched last October and named after the Roman god of travelers and transporters of goods, Mercury Mile is a running apparel curation service that will deliver you a box of new running gear and accessories carefully chosen for you by a personal stylist based on your profile. “Curating personal style that fuses fashion with function for all runners,” is their motto. There is no plan to offer running shoes through the service, mostly because DeLeon believes in the personal fitting service and need for the try-on process at a local running shop.
DeLeon’s goal, he says, is to educate runners about awesome new apparel brands that might improve their overall running experience and enjoyment. DeLeon and fellow Columbus Running Company co-owner Eric Fruth became friends as members of DePauw University’s cross country and track teams. “Coach Stoffregen used to tell us, ‘Tuck in your shirt! If you look good, you run well!’” DeLeon says. That simple concept is reflected in the mission of Mercury Mile. The science of embodied cognition supports Stoffregen’s advice: what you wear impacts how you see yourself and, in turn, how you perform.
The past five years my running performance and motivation has hit a plateau. Perhaps because I didn’t feel I deserved it, I haven’t bought new running clothes during those five years. My tops have faded in color, holes have stretched where races pins punctured the material and my capris sag in the butt. I decided to try out Mercury Mile by first completing the online profile. In addition to the expected questions around size, I was asked if I tended to overheat, if I ran in rain, whether I chose function over style, what my Instagram handle was, and if I liked my clothing tighter or looser.
My doorstep present arrived the day I requested online. Packaged along with the five items of clothing (totaling $240) were some freebies (snacks and a pair of sunglasses) and a letter from my stylist, Christina, explaining why she’d chosen each item. “Have you ever run in Rabbit? This is a favorite brand of mine and the Hopper Short will be a great addition to your running wardrobe,” she said in the letter. “Since your profile said you prefer T-shirts and run in the dark, I wanted to pack the ASICS Lite Show Favorite Short Sleeve.”
Generally, my Mercury Mile contents reflected the colors dominating my Instagram account: ocean blues, forest greens and ruby reds.
The company’s policy is to have you keep what you want and return (for a full refund) or exchange unwanted items in the pre-paid bag at the bottom of your box within seven business days. All you pay for the service is the stylist fee of $20 which is applied as credit towards items if you keep $20 or more.
Next month I turn 40 and enter a new chapter in my running life as a master’s runner. By refreshing my running wardrobe with stylish new capris and brightly colored fitted tops, I could also breathe new life into my experience running and how I look doing it. My personally curated Mercury Mile box reminded me that my strides still count and plateaus of habit are meant to be broken.