The Benefits of Running: How Running Can Get You Free Stuff

I love all the new technology that allows us to monitor our pace and distance, but there’s a drawback to my beloved NikePlus:  When I’m on a timed run, I’m not nearly as inclined to stop and smell the free stuff.

A brand-new $25 vase, free, on the run!

You know…the free stuff on the side of the road.

Call me a Hoarder in Motion, but it’s tough to keep going when something glistens on the side of the road. Remember Templeton, the rat from Charlotte’s Web, always foraging for a bit of string or a half-eaten lunch?  I’m not that bad.  Not yet.  But I will interrupt a personal best if there is a brand-new vase from Pier One, $25 price tag still attached, half-hidden in the weeds, calling to me.

Yup, found that this year on the run. 

Free jewelry!

Also this bracelet:

And, proving there is a little Templeton in me, also a side-view mirror for a car. It wouldn’t fit my Jeep, so I don’t need it, but I took it home. Because you never know.

Beyond the unexpected finds, there are constants.  In the summer, I stop for fresh flowers; in the fall, for dried.

In fact, this is the best time of year for foraging, for both chipmunks and runners, with the foliage dying and shriveling, exposing the glorious junk strewn by litterers over the summer.

Free firewood!

Every time I run in the fall, I return home with a piece of firewood.   Some people might think I am crazy, running down the road with a log.   Me, I think people who PAY for firewood are crazy, when, in the ex-urbs and beyond, there’s free wood all over the ground, and–hello?–you’re just going to burn it, not frame it.

Plus, running with logs is great for your biceps.   Let all those sedentary weaklings laugh all they want.

Sometimes I even find food.   The best blackberries I’ve ever had were consumed mid-run when I came across a thicket of fat, ripe berries in a field, and I stopped and shared a snack with some generous birds.

Free chestnuts roasting by an open fire!

The berries are long gone, but right now chestnuts are dropping in New England.  I pick up a couple off the side of the road every time I run, and by December I can roast (free) chestnuts over my (free) open fire, all because I run like a rat.

Seriously, what other sport gives you free stuff?

Running is a gift we give ourselves, and like a good friend, if you keep your eyes open (and don’t mind an occasional stop and a subtraction of seconds), it will always reciprocate.

Salties, what have you found on the run?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Wow, you have found some great stuff! I love how you carry the logs… I would totally do that too!
    I actually found 2 cell phones and a camera when I lived in Seattle! I always returned them to their owners by calling “mom” on the phones. I did some detective work by looking at pictures on the camera. The owners have been so grateful!
    And… I have found money on many occasions. In heavy campus party areas, very early on Sunday mornings. Lots of students drop $20s on the dark walk home (I was probably one of those people in college as well). I kept the money!

    1. Too bad they didn’t give you a reward… that would have been more “found” money, too. But that’s a great PR service you’re providing for our sport — runners helping the world, one step at a time!

  2. Haha – last summer I saw that someone had set out free zucchini and summer squash, so I ran my last mile home with these huge squashes in hand. I felt a bit ridiculous and wondered if I looked like I stole them, but it was a pretty awesome find.

    1. Zucchini, chestnuts, blackberries… clearly we need to meet for run somewhere in the middle and have Rosemary whip up one of her specialties from all these ingredients!

  3. Oh, you make me miss the PacNW. I used to come home with tupperware FULL of free blackberries, raspberries, and huckleberries. It was amazing!! There were railroad tracks near my house that were lined on both sides with berry bushes. No one would ever go in there because it was a half mile walk but I’d run in there often. They’d go to waste otherwise 🙂

  4. I found a credit card on the side of the road once. I picked it up and called the 800 # on the back when I got home to report it. I figured that the owner had probably reported it stolen by then, but asked the credit card company to let them know it had been found and had been cut up. I figured if I had lost a card, I’d want to know what had happened to it.

    I once ran past a porno DVD on the side of the road. I didn’t pick that one up.

      1. Ugh…. that brings up a whole other category, stuff you WISH you didn’t see on the side of the road. Like plastic bottles and bags with yellow liquid in it that you know isn’t Gatorade!
        But the porn, very obvious: got to get it out of the car before you get home and the significant other sees it!

  5. The only good stuff I ever find are baby toys pitched out of strollers on the park path. I throw them in the stroller and if I see someone who it could belong to I ask and if I don’t come across the owner I either place it somewhere easy to spot or occasionally take it. I need to find some better routes after reading about brand new vases and $20 bills 🙂

  6. How funny. One of my favorite podcasts Spikes ( was just talking about this last week. He called it runcombing.

    I have to admit that I rarely find good stuff and certainly never blackberries or Zuchini or anything like that. I mostly fiind nickles and quarters and lots of disposable water bottles. For the last mile or mile and a half, I pick up the water bottles to put them in the recycling.

    Gosh. I wish I found wild blackberries…

  7. Grass is always greener, Debra… I wish I found QUARTERS! And hooray for you, picking up the trash … we probably all ought to do that at the end of our runs, keep the roads clean and build good will. I once ran past a full, giant-sized container of Cascade liquid dishwasher detergent for about three months, until I finally got fed up and walked back later and picked it up and took it home to the trash. (It was all gross and hard, else I would have used it!) I figure probably a hundred people had walked past it during that time and no one else bothered to pick it up. We runners are better than that!

  8. On a leisurely long run, I’ll take a backpack and a couple of dollars. – not free stuff but I come across produce tables set up on the honor system where you put a buck or two in the box and pick up home-grown peaches or tomatoes.

    Then again, I found a pair of men’s slip-on casual shoes beside a road sign recently. Who walks out of a pair of shoes on a country road? I’m sure there is a story. Not my size or taste, so I left them behind.

  9. One time, I tried to obtain a broken power wheelchair. But those suckers are HEAVY when the power doesn’t function. I just hated to see something so useful sitting on the side of the road! I also had a friend who used to pick up cans on her runs and take them in to get the deposit.

    1. A broken power wheel chair would totally win for weirdest pick-up! Your friend with the cans needs a jogging stroller. Imagine all the loot she’d make filling up a stroller with cans every time she ran. I love this topic! These comments have entertained me all day 🙂

  10. I need to run with you guys! I really adore that bracelet. I am like Salty in that I’ve only “found” things I would rather not have…

    I have spotted some pears for the taking on one of my routes. The logistics of getting it back and juggling it with dog’s leash and her, uh, full bag have made me pass so far!

  11. So today I went to spectate a half marathon, and found a debit card on the ground… and it belonged to someone I sort of know and I was able to find her near the finish. While it wasn’t free stuff for me, it definitely was my best find yet!

  12. I was forced to take a lunch time walk rather than a lunch time run because I forgot to pack a sports bra. Upside – I found a $5 bill on the way back.