Marketplace Scratch Pad

Recession + time = speed

Scott Jagow Jul 8, 2009

Instead of driving, people seem to be running. The Wall Street Journal reports that the unemployed are using their free time to sign up for marathons, triathlons and road races. Those races are filling up in record time. And the runners, with all the extra time to train, are getting faster.

From the Journal:

.. by one benchmark, marathoners have gotten faster. Athlinks.com, a Web site that tracks millions of race results, says 2009 has seen marathon times improve in nearly every age category…

Zach Goldman, a triathlete from San Diego, describes himself as “funemployed.” Mr. Goldman, who was recently laid off from his high-paying commercial real-estate job, says he has enough time to train nearly full time and enough money saved up to travel the world racing and figuring out what he wants to do with his life-which is probably not commercial real estate. “That wasn’t all that fulfilling,” he says. “I’d like to do something more meaningful with my life,” he says–ideally in a career that will allow him to train longer hours.

The story also says top athletes coming out of college may choose to pursue the Olympics or other high-level competition, rather than spin their wheels trying to find a job.

A new race event business in Michigan is capitalizing on the increased interest in fitness:

Eva Solomon says she thought she was “an idiot” to leave her stable job as a grade-school teacher to start a company, EST Events, during the worst economic crisis in a generation. But she figured things like triathlons were “recession proof.”

“I was blown away when I got home from the race and within two hours, I was getting letters from people thanking me for asking them to pay $80 to swim, bike and run,” she says. For the company’s next event, Ms. Solomon is considering offering a discount for people who can prove they’ve been laid off in the past six months.

Claudia Becque was distraught when she was laid off in January. Then she ran a 2:44 marathon time, slashing 14 minutes off her previous personal record–and close to Olympic level.

She’s now employed as a clinical research specialist for a medical devices company in Chicago. But her month of rest, relaxation and hard training have gotten her thinking: Maybe she should stay unemployed. She’s considering moving to a part-time job with her company, and all her friends are pushing her to do it. “Claudia, this is a sign. You need to just run.”

I guess we’ve entered the Forrest Gump economy.

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