Running for Change (and Dollar Bills!)

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?

31 responses to “Running for Change (and Dollar Bills!)

  1. 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. 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. 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 🙂

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. I find a lot of coins when I run, but last month I hit pay dirt. $10 bill in a parking lot. It was frozen to the ground, but I loosened it up. When I got home my youngest son was worried – he had forgotten to tell me he needed $10 for a school project, and needed to turn it in that day. Karma!

  7. I always pick up money, be it a penny or a $20 bill (yes, in the middle of the road!). I’m prone to tripping and falling, so my eyes are always to the ground. Seems like it pays off!

  8. I rarely find money, only small(pennies)change which I bring home.I have found lots of other interesting things. I keep a collection of them. I find allot of golf balls which my husband uses in his once a year charity golf outing. Its the only time he golfs! I wanted to attach a picture of my running find goodies, but I guess I can’t do it here,or I don’t know how:) Either way, I like finding things on my runs!

  9. Where does she stash all the stuff while running? Big pockets?!

    I run in the country. Trash, trash and more trash. So sad. And roadkill.

    1. Hi Kirsten – my favorite running skirts and shorts have zipper pockets, so I wear those on long runs. I also wear a spibelt for my phone. That gives me two places to split any small finds I make. I’ll carry slightly larger items if I have a short distance to go, or toss in a pile on a loop route and pick them up on my last pass. There have been a few times when I have had to physically HOLD on to the back of my skirt (from the weight of the coins) to keep from mooning people. 🙂

    2. My Nike capris have a small back pocket. I have an iFitness waterbottle system and that has a small pouch on it as well. I will pick up pop/beer cans for the refund deposit, but not bottles with lids on them –not knowing what liquid inside can be quite bad.

  10. Mostly, I find useless items (roadkill, used condoms, empty beer cans). Actually, I made a game out of the empty beer cans during the first week that college was back in session (we live in a college town and that’s where I run). The thing about running in a college town – very few college kids have money to lose. 😉

    My oldest daugher (5) is a very good finder of cash. We NEVER go somewhere without her finding some change. And if we don’t? Last time that happened she put on her prettiest pout and the lady in front of us in line GAVE HER MONEY because she was so cute. {SIGH}

  11. No, I’ve never found money. I did one time find a raccoon’s tail and another time a snake skeleton!! Both times I took my 10 year old son back to get them!

    1. Me, too! I notice things interesting to my children: dead squirrels, deer, birds, and snakes on the side of the road. And yes, I’ve also taken them back to look at the bodies.

  12. I am impressed. I haven’t found money in quite some time as I generally run through neighborhoods and the kids who ride the bus are not big spenders. 🙂

  13. Okay, I run out in the country and have not found $, but I have found some interesting stuff. Found a wallet (tracked down owner and returned-he gave me $50), a Homeland Security Officer’s badge (returned to gentleman), a switchblade, and the most interesting was a personal home safe box. Yes, a safety box. Was out running and looked down a drainage ditch and there it was. Don’t know what was inside box, I turned the item into the Sheriff’s office. He mentioned that it could have been from a home burglary or fell off the owner’s vehicle. Who knows? Was told that after some time, if the box is not claimed, it’s mine. It’s been about 3 months and have not thought about since then. Should I look into if it has been claimed or not?

    1. I’ve found used condoms too, right next to a couple unopened packages along the trail underneath a bridge. UGH.

  14. I found 2 $50 bills in my flower bed after a summer run. They were a bit mildewed. Last week I found 2 dollar bills while running in the woods near my home.

  15. I do look for change, but have never been that successful! My goal for this year is to follow the example, save and donate it. I have never bothered to count it before, just put what change I find in my boy’s piggy bank. One year when we lived on Oahu and I ran the Honolulu Marathon a man from the mainland got some press because he saved the change he found running for 20 years and used that to make the trip to the race. I think it was in 2003.

  16. Sort of. I was running and found a wallet stuffed with identification and papers but no money. It looked like it had just been thrown on the road. I brought it home and we attempted to find the owner whose phone number was not in service. There was a business card in the wallet from an acquaintance so we called him to see if he knew how to reach the fellow. Thankfully he did and called the owner’s boss and then he called us. He didn’t have any credit cards but he said he was lost without his debit card. I wasn’t home when he came but my husband said he wants to do something for you and I said I don’t need to have him do that. My husband replied that I told him you would say that. About a month later I came home to find a fresh $100 bill on top of m laptop. Apparently, he had been up multiple times to see us and we were never home. So yes I have found money…sort of.

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