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Running for Change (and Dollar Bills!)

14th January 2013, By: SBS,
Cha-ching! Samantha finding big money on a recent run.

Cha-ching! Samantha finding big money on a recent run.

As regular readers of our blog posts know, I am a money-grabbing runner: I often find change on the ground, and I delight in scooping it up. And I love for others to find moola, too, like Samantha Hopkins, who emailed us about the hundreds–yes, 100s–of dollars she and her husband, Brandon, had found on runs in less than a year. I was in awe and, I admit it, slight disbelief at first. So when Dimity and I met this Texas mother of two preschool boys at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio last fall, I peppered her with questions. Her tales and tips are too good not to share, so here’s a Q&A with Samantha. (For the record, this 37-year-old isn’t running 1000s of miles while finding her 100s: In 2012, she ran a little over 626 miles at an average pace of 10:34-minute miles. Along the way, she and Brandon found a collective $427.26 while running; the company Brandon works for matches charitable donations, so on December 31, they donated $854.52 to the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund.)

I keep my eyes peeled here in Portland, yet rarely find more than 56-cents on a run. Do you think it’s a Texas phenomenon that folks drop so much money?
I honestly don’t know, as I also found coins while running in Wisconsin this fall. However, I didn’t find anything while vacationing all along the West Coast this summer. Maybe it just isn’t a Pacific thing to throw money out of your car window at stop lights? My husband and I have actually witnessed this happen on more than one occasion, and it makes me wish I was running each time! I shake my head at the amount of coins I find; I just can’t think of any excuse for dropping coins into the street. It’s money–it all can get spent the same!

Then do you think you have a special gift for spotting money while running?
I don’t necessarily think I have a gift for spotting money on runs, though my husband begs to differ. He finds about a tenth of what I find on a run. Just talking bills, he has found $3, while I’ve found the rest; so I suppose I must have some talent…. Generally I run solo, and looking for coins entertains me as much as my music does.

Brandon gets the matching funds, but Samantha is the eagle-eyed one.

Brandon gets the matching funds, but Samantha is the eagle-eyed one.

Most moola you’ve ever found on a run?
$56 and change, all found on an early Sunday morning run alongside a major road. The bills were in the drainage washout from a parking lot, scattered about 10 feet apart from one another. To this day, I can’t believe my good fortune on that run.

What gave you the idea to collect it for a year, then donate to charity?
I found a $20 bill in a puddle one morning in December 2011, followed by a credit card about a mile later; I rang doorbells and found the card’s owner. When sharing this story with a fellow mother runner, we both decided to collect any cash we found over the course of 2012. She hoped to find enough to buy a bag of Sport Beans, and I hoped to find enough for a GU. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my pickle jar would fill up by September, necessitating another jar.

You don’t just add cash to your stash. Tell us what you do with jewelry and such.
I have found some odd items on the road – everything from Ninja Lego Men to bungee cords, pliers, and work gloves. I donate items that don’t look like roadkill to Goodwill, so others can benefit. Plus I like to think I’m doing a little part to clean up Texas roads. I did find a 14K gold “pimp ring” in the corner of a parking lot, which we sold for scrap gold to the tune of $240 (!!), and I sold a sterling silver men’s bracelet, too. I have come across three driver’s licenses, which we turned in to the police; two college IDs that we mailed back to the campuses; and countless credit and debit cards. (We just cut those up.) I also found a dog tag that I sent back to the Army, and a season pass to a Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Too bad I’m not a guy named Juan with a goatee…..

$1.20 in change + extra goodies: About 120 cents more than I find on 99% of my runs. How 'bout you?

$1.20 in change + extra goodies: About 120 cents more than I find on 99% of my runs. How ’bout you?

Three tips you’d give to gals wanting an, ahem, enriching run?
Typically I find the most money at intersections near commercial areas along a major highway near my house. [Note: She told us in person the highways have super-wide shoulders.] Rarely do I find more than a penny when running in actual neighborhoods, so I run there for my shorter distances or when my time and pace matter. I actually love getting stopped by red lights on my long runs, giving me a few extra seconds to look for coins around the center islands.

My best advice for anyone hoping to find a little moola is to run through bar parking lots early on Sunday mornings, before any cleaning crew arrives. I have had the best luck at finding actual bills running past bars! For example, recently, George Washington [$1] joined me at Mile 2 outside a sports bar; Andrew Jackson [$20!!] joined me at Mile 6 on the same run outside a country and Western dance bar; then only two pennies over the rest of the 11-mile run.

I do attribute my ability to find money to a higher power: Early one Sunday morning, I found a $10 bill while doing hill repeats on the steep driveway of a local church. I truly believe the reason I keep finding more cash is because I’m donating it all to charity.

Now you tell us: Do you find money while running, or no? If you do, care to share any tips?

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30 Responses to Running for Change (and Dollar Bills!)

  1. Linda says:

    While visiting my step daughter,I found $60.00 in a bar parking lot one Sunday morning. Returning from my run, I got my step daughter to tell me how much she paid for the take-out from the previous night….$59.00. I was so happy to pull out $60.00 and hand it to her. It was only because I found it, that she would accept it.

  2. Marykay says:

    I am always finding money. I am the person who will pick up any penny I find. I have only been running for 7 months so I have around $100 I have found so far while running.

    But one year I saved all my found pennies and other money in a jar and said at the end of the year I would take a vacation with my found money. Paid for 2 weeks in Hawaii with the money I found on the street, trails, parking lots and parks.

    And I live in the Pacific Northwest.

  3. Kevin says:

    Hey Samantha, what kind of stuff did you find during your trip to the Northwest last year?

  4. TheQuirkyGlutenFreeRunner/Amy says:

    Wow, I have only managed to find a few pennies on the roads near my house. I usually stash pop/beer bottles together, so I can go back later and pick them up with a bag and return then (Iowa 5¢refund per can/bottle). Near my parents’ I usually find nails and other pieces of metal that have fallen off/out of trucks and which can hurt tires. Dad may not like me running on the highway, but he likes when I pick up those nails that could ruin HIS tires :-)

  5. Yuki says:

    Nice work, Samantha!

  6. janice says:

    Probably the most valuable thing I “picked up” lately while running was someone’s two dogs running loose…Took a few minutes of friendly persuasion, but they finally realized that the front stoop was much better than running in the road.

  7. Saucy Mama says:

    Yes I find money occasionally. Not big bucks but money adds up. It only takes one drop to start filling a bucket. Mostly I pick up screws and nails – things that could damage tires. I have a Mason jar that’s almost full of hardware. I drop my findings in the front of my sports bra if I’m not wearing active wear with a pocket.

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