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Running through the recession

Laura Pizzuto, left, and Dawn Estelle Garrett running a 5K.

Kai Ryssdal: Fauja Singh took eight hours to finish the Toronto Marathon this past weekend. That he finished at all is kind of amazing, seeing as how he's 100 years old.

But no matter one's age, marathoning continues to grow in popularity -- even as average finishing times get worse. More amateurs in the race, is the theory. In 2009, though, more people ran marathons and the average runner got faster, perhaps because people who're out of work had a lot more time to train.

Marketplace's Gregory Warner met a woman who discovered running after losing her job.


HARD WORK

LAURA PIZZUTO: OK, we can start jogging.

When I lost my job in December, I did get more serious about running. I've had more time to devote to it, fortunately! And I'll be running my first full marathon this November, in Philadelphia.

My name is Laura Pizzuto and most of my career I've worked in finance. I graduated college in 2003 and I basically just took the first job I could find. I knew someone that could get me a job at a mortgage company.

I was a processor. I was a post closer, a closer, I applied for other positions in the company. But unfortunately that wasn't possible -- our company had downsized, and then we were sold.

Running is something that I didn't have so much trouble succeeding at. My hard work paid off, which, my hard work did not pay off at a lot of my jobs. You know, promotions, raises were not available. Running was, running, I put a lot of hard work in, and then I became faster.

HOMELESS SHELTER

It's 5:30 at Sheila Dennis House, and we already have some members waiting. Good morning ladies!

I wake up very early in the morning to go to a homeless shelter in North Philadelphia. It's called Sheila Dennis House. I volunteer for a program called Back on My Feet. I'm at every run, I'm greeting everybody. We do have a coach on the team, but if they're not there I lead them through stretches.

PIZZUTO: How many jumping jacks should we do today? Let's do 15! 1, 2, 3...

I run with a large group of large personalities, and I've just really developed some great friendships with all of them. Our team captain, her name is Dawn.

DAWN ESTELLE GARRETT: My name is Dawn Estelle Garrett. I became homeless in October. I started running with Back on My Feet in December. My running joke is I run for the ice cream truck. The ice cream truck! Well, it's a joke.

PIZZUTO: No, Dawn was not a runner.

GARRETT: I was 289 pounds at one point!

PIZZUTO: I'm not sure what Dawn weighs now.

GARRETT: 170? I'm in shape now. I'm toned, um, I actually can run now!

PIZZUTO: Dawn ran her first 5K in Wilmington, Del.

GARRETT: I ran the first 2 miles. Then I got weak. I wanted to give up.

PIZZUTO: It's a challenging course! Wilmington is pretty hilly.

GARRETT: And the finish line was all uphill. And I'm like, no way. And my teammates were cheering.

PIZZUTO: We ran the whole 5K around Dawn. And she talks about when she runs that she needs to hear the "Rocky" theme song.

GARRETT: The "Eye of the Tiger?" That song?

PIZZUTO: We started to sing it to her!

Laura and Dawn sing "Eye of the Tiger"

GARRETT: I'm like all right, yeah! And I'm thinking of the music in my head, and I'm like all right, all right, all right. I can do it. I can do it. And it was um, beautiful! I crossed the finish line, I had tears in my eyes. Because I normally start things, but I never finish them. Like jobs, I'll move on to the next thing, I don't want to do that, you know? But I don't want to give up and be defeated. I'm just going to keep on forward. I want to complete some things in my life.

JOB SEARCHING

We're in the computer/guest room of my mother's house, where I do my job searching. Their computer is a lot faster than my laptop.

I'm looking mostly on Idealist.org. I didn't care so much about those finance jobs. It wasn't a fulfilling career. And I really want to do something that I believe in.

OK so this position is actually, it's a part-time case manager to victims of domestic violence.

With every job I always, there's always something where I have to stretch a little bit.
I do have a bachelor's degree. I'm not proficient in Spanish. I don't have prior case management experience. Some experience working in domestic violence issues? Ahem. I haven't worked in them, but I do have a sensitivity to that.

So this position I think I can definitely give them a shot. I'll start working on my cover letter.

HOPES AND FEARS

Uncertainty is, um, it's a worry of mine. What if my mother loses her job again and I can't live here? And I have these thoughts, especially during my long runs. I had a half marathon two weeks ago and I had just an amazing, amazing run. I had a PR, a personal record. I broke two hours by 6 seconds, very dramatic. I have my medal here. You can hear it clanging!

I feel really emotional. I just never thought that I would be able to do that, be able to run that fast!

And I always say if you looked at my situation on paper, it's not great. I'm laid off, I live at home. OK, a finance person, they looked at me, my loan application they would just reject. But I just feel so much more alive! And I just had these deep thoughts as I was running, you can really do anything. You may not feel like that all the time, but if you really want something, you're making it happen. You're making it happen right now. You just feel unstoppable.


Ryssdal: That story was produced by our health reporter Gregory Warner.

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