Finding Money while Running Miles




“’nother penny!”

These exclamations punctuate pretty much every run my best running friend, Molly, and I take. As our conversation slides from best dance programs for my 8th-grade son and the retro-style dress she’s sewing to the new brewpub she and her hubby enjoyed last night, our eyes continually scan the road. Is that sparkle of silver half-buried under a leaf a quarter…or a bottle cap? Reddish, round blob: penny or wad of gum? Glint of a dime?

The radar-like visual sweep doesn’t distract from our chitchat: It’s unspoken, yet we’re both 100% aware the other one is doing it, too. Our continual search does, however, often determine what route we run or guide what direction we turn. (So many options: Our side of Portland is a grid!) On New Year’s Day, thanks to my jetlag, I ran several hours before Molly did. I nabbed three dimes and three pennies (woohoo: three is my lucky number!). Before Molly headed out, she texted me.

We are well versed in the pockets of Portland that reliably produce change (I’m not fool: I’m not telling you where!!). Molly coined (ouch!) the phrase, “Mo’ money routes,” as in asking, “Should we run a mo’ money route today?” when we meet up halfway between our houses at the start of a run. There are worse ways to choose a route.

Over the years, our #foundchange quest has gone through phases. At first, I found at least 85% of the money. Once Molly started to hit her money-finding stride, we got competitive, often arguing over who spied the moola first. (Yeah, now that I type that, I see where the issue may have originated… #OwnIt) When it started to border on contentious—my older daughter, Phoebe, asked if it was going to rip apart the close friendship Molly and I have—we laid ground rules. (Whoever calls it, gets it. After you find money, you switch places/sides if the non-finder wants to, on the theory the curb-side runner finds more change.)

And, perhaps most importantly, we changed our attitude. Instead of feeling envy or resentment toward the finder, we express delight and kudos. “Awesome: good eye!” “Nice work!” “Wow, I never would have seen that!” “Woohoo!”

Previous years' coinage in my closet

At first, it was a bit of fake-it-until-you-make-it, but now our enthusiasm feels genuine. And we believe that attitude has karmic repercussions. E.g. On Saturday, about 5.5 miles into our run, we had found two pennies each when Molly yelped, “penny!!” I congratulated her, pleased for her. Then, adopting the Molly method of scanning the surrounding area for more coins (often done while singing lines from the musical Hamilton: “Look around; look around!”), I nabbed a dime. We resumed our run, commenting on our shared good fortune.

Molly's 2018 #foundchange

Some folks totally get the almost-electric surge Molly and I feel when we find money; other people are completely baffled by our quest. Especially when I admit I don’t spend or donate what I find. I squirrel it away, almost literally burying it on the upper shelf of my bedroom closet, up near shoes I rarely wear and an off-season purse or two. I occasionally I contemplate collecting it all and spending it on something significant—a pretty pair of sterling-silver earrings I’d wear frequently or a pendant from a favorite boutique—but I never can find the exact right thing. (Molly, on the other hand, donates her annual tallies to a local charity that helps the homeless.)

It’s definitely not about the worth of the money—it’s about the search and the thrill of discovery.


But, hey, since I suspect you’re wondering, I’ll tell you: Molly found $6.67 (all coins) on 2018 runs. Me? $67.43 ($44 in a wallet I returned to the owner; $11 in paper money; $23.43 in U.S. coins. Plus my first find of 2018: a 10 bani, the equivalent of a Romanian dime.)

My 2018 findings

Do you search for #foundchange, or think I'm a a bit loony? 

21 responses to “Finding Money while Running Miles

  1. I dont run where there is much money but one time I did find a piece of a $5 bill. It was in the grass and looked like it had been run over by a lawnmower. I went home but became obsessed with finding more pieces of it and went out the following days and found more each day. I finally found enough to tape it together and turn it into the bank. Once you have over 50% they have to take it!

  2. So running with my brf last year we came across a penny, and another… and realized there were pennies scattered all around a driveway! We started picking them up and found that out of 40+pennies about 8 were sliced in half!!! We spent quite awhile trying to figure out what could have done that…

  3. I have a special piggy bank for just this #foundchange My 2018 haul came to $28.19, not counting the $5 I picked up on an autumn 5k course and returned to its owner (I saw it fall from her pocket) and the $20 I found in the finish chute of the San Jose Rock & Roll half the following weekend.
    (There was a time in my early adult life that #foundchange could’ve meant being able to afford TWO whole packets of Top Ramen in a day, rather than having to split up one into three meals…)

  4. Impressive haul, SBS – but it was $78.43, not $67.43!!!

    My haul this year was almost $2. I think it need to be a ratio per mile, though – I only ran 430 miles in 2018 due to foot surgery.

  5. My total for the year was $48.89,,,not my biggest year, but I was on the injured list for 4 months. It’s an interesting social studies observation that I find the most in neighborhoods that should be more mindful of their money and I rarely find money in the nicer neighborhoods. I’ve got several old glass gallon milk jugs that I put it in. I figure I can use it in my retirement 😉

  6. I have totally joined the found change squad. I can’t believe after all these years of running it’s only been since you mentioned it in the podcast I have started picking up something on most of my runs!! One outstanding weekend I found $10 on my long run then the next day I found $5 on a walk. It’s such a charge of excitement even when it’s only small change.

    1. STELLAR weekend, Kristy! I love that it was podcast that got you looking–and picking up moola. Keep at it (and send some of your karma my way!!)

  7. I found $20 once. It was a rainy day and it was sorta stuck on the ground as several cars has already ran over it. I peeled it off and kept going. I hung it on my inside clothesline to dry out. Profitable and a good run!

    1. I love SO many elements of your story–the visual of the run-over, wet $20. The obvious glee it gave you. But, most of all, I love your “inside clothesline!!!”

  8. Sadly, not one coin has ever been found on my routes. Mine are all suburban bike trails where no one would ever have a need to use money. However, I do pass by an ice cream stand… maybe I should make a loop up near the window and take a peek there when they are closed! 🙂

    1. Trust me: Molly and I have run past drive-through windows, looking for change! And don’t count out bike trails: We’re convinced cycling sometimes pushed coins out of a rider’s pocket–not a hardcore cyclist, but someone going from Point A to Point B.

  9. I do… but I don’t find much in my neck of the woods. I did find $13 in paper bills once. But usually I come home empty-handed.

  10. In December, I found 19 pennies in the street near the curb near a private elementary school. The next day (different spot), I found 4 more pennies. Luckily, it was cold enough I was wearing gloves, so a quick place to stash them until I got home.

    1. The area near schools is a change-rich environment–lots of loose coins in kiddos’ pockets! Makes me feel a bit bad, but it’s not like leaving it on the ground would help it get back to its rightful owner!

  11. Here is one issue I have with this: Once the change is found, I’d have to stop and stash it away somewhere, unzipping a pocket, putting it in, re-zipping, etc. And if I found a whole bunch of change, would it even fit in said pocket? I like the idea but the logistics confound me!

    1. Well, if you’re big-busted Molly, you stash it in your sports bra. If you’re me, you put it in your zippered rear pocket of either capris or shorts. Sure, it involves stopping…but I can always spare the time. And even when I’ve found pocket-dumps, I never have found too much to carry. A little bit of jingle-jangle-jingle is a good thing!

  12. I had a route that went past student rental housing. After the spring semester, there used to be tons of trash lining the roads as kids moved back “home”, most to California. At times I would “straighten” the piles, so they weren’t in the road or in my path so I could run freely. During my clean up I found a $20. Thank you rich California kids!

    1. Thank you, indeed! I have definitely found money in left-behind items–once found a coat in the middle of the street. One pocket was heavy, and it contained 3 quarters! It literally pays to check!

  13. SO funny story. I run on a rural route but it takes me through some neighborhoods before I get to the gravel. I have found some change, not tons but had been keeping it in a jar all year. Well, my hubby decides to help me clean and dumps the entire jar in a our normal change jar! NOOOOOO! I didn’t seem him do it, just found the empty jar in recycling and asked him. Since he never helps clean, I couldn’t be mad but I was so excited to have a yearly total this year! I guess next year I will try again and have a very well labeled jar!

    1. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! That’s tragic-comic!!! That’s right up there with Dimity’s husband donating all her colored corduroys to Goodwill!

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