On the 3rd Day of Christmas, Running Gave to Me: Dollar, Dollar Bills

imageThis year, running gave me money. Okay, while I did pocket $200 at a half marathon this fall, it’s not what you think. And while I love prize money, I’m definitely not fast enough for that to be a regular thing. If I did run to win it, I’d often be sorely disappointed; I missed placing in the money by one finishing spot twice this year.

But finding money? That I can do.

So, starting point: I love picking up spare change. I have a jar full of change found while running. I don’t skip a penny, and I definitely don’t pass up things more than a penny.

Imagine: mid-run, mile five:


Stop. Pivot. Snag. At this point, most of my friends don’t even pause, they just keep running. [Pro tip: Make sure you have storage for spare change. It gets jingly really quick.]

I have a good sense of the places where I am most likely to find change, and I pay extra close attention in those. [Pro tip: Basically anywhere people park.]

Why are people so careless about their money? Well, that sounds like a question for either a psychologist or an economist — or a psychonomist, if that’s a thing, and it should be. Heck, some people even think we should do away with the penny, but as long as the penny is worth a penny, I’m picking it up.

For instance: say you find five pennies per week, which I think is pretty conservative. That’s $2.60 a year, which is a free cup of coffee. And sometimes you’ll find more! On one of my long runs this summer, I was coming down a bit of a ritzy street, but one I’ve run through thousands of times. Literally. As I trot through, on my way back to my starting place, I saw paper. Like paper money! $20! Also there were no cars or people around, so I pocketed it and ran back excited. You know what I did with that money? Paid for my next 5k race entry, which benefited a church’s youth ministry.

But I want to tune you in to another way your running can pay big dividends: your health insurance. Yeah, yeah, you probably know being active and fit can save on your policy. Yawn. I’m talking about plans like Humana’s Vitality program (soon to be Go365). I was first introduced to Vitality while on a Humana plan, but when I changed jobs and insurance providers, my new provider also used the Vitality program.

The Vitality program is a way to incentivize healthy living. And basically I don’t do anything extra. I have my gym membership and my Garmin both tied to my account, and I get “points” every time I run.

Now, I hear you. “Points.” I get points at stores, at restaurants, and who knows where else. What the heck do you want with another rewards program? But get this: I get 15 points per recorded workout (that’s 100 points per week), plus 500 points for a marathon. That’s points for doing stuff I was going to do anyway. You also get points for wellness exams, including vision, dental, colonoscopies (check), pap smears (check), mammographies, etc. And depending on your rewards level, you can get $25 to Target or Amazon for every 1,500 points.

runner finds moneyIt’s easier than it sounds. Last year, I bought about $500 in holiday gifts using Amazon gift cards. This year it hasn’t been as much because I changed jobs in April and my points reset. Sad face. But I spent all my accumulated points before I left and got a sweet Kate Spade briefcase on Amazon, so there’s that.

Between the finders keepers cash and the health insurance perks, thank you running for raining money upon me.

Have you found money on the run? Does your health insurance or employer offer perks for running? Any other ways you’ve been paid to run? 

Love this topic? We’ll be exploring more about money and running in tonight’s #SaltyChat on Twitter! Join us for the saltiest chat on running around, live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern every Monday night! 

Started running in my early 20s and ended up running my first marathon 15 months later. Managed to break 3 hours in my 12th marathon. Pilates instructor passionate about the importance of your powerhouse in running and the mind/body connection. One husband, zero kids, mama to one Australian Shepherd.

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  1. I don’t pick up money often (mainly because I don’t see it) but I’d definitely stop for $1 or more if I saw it. One year our Health Insurance offered incentives for workouts and I didn’t realize it until the end of the year. I spent hours one day in December entering workouts on their awful portal. But, it earned me some nice gift cards and its was definitely worth it. They stopped it — probably because it was so rife for cheating. With all the apps and fitness watches, I think there is a resurgence in this benefit but unfortunately my current plan doesn’t offer it.

    I was adding life insurance and saw some adds for discounts for runners but when I contacted my insurance guy he said its only marketing and got me the best plan for a “fit” person of my age. But, that “fitness” is simply measured by blood/urine sample and a high level history — basically the same approach they have been doing for decades. No questions on my daily workouts or diet. Until the actuarial tables are updated for life insurance, I think its just a marketing gimmick. Or maybe my insurance agent is out of touch.

    On racing and prizes, I’m surprised at the awful trophies or plaques awarded in some of the races I’ve placed. I’d much prefer a $10 gift card than a trophy I have nowhere to store and was mass produced in under-developed countries, shipped across the seas and costthe environment more than the money it took to produce it.

    1. We bought our life insurance policies when I was at my lifetime fittest, which was smart! I got the cheapest possible rate! And I agree with you on the prizes. I hate medals and trophies. Just wasteful clutter to me. I know others display theirs and like them so I get it, but for me it’s just junk I’d rather not have.

      1. Great point on the life insurance!

        And yes on the bad prizes — that’s a whole post until itself. Obviously I’m a big fan of cash money, but a gift card is definitely preferred to a plaque or plastic trophy. The worst are medals for AG prizes (or finishers medals for anything under a half marathon). I love a future race entry as a prize, too!

  2. I have found money on the run a few times, but nothing huge that I remember. I have pretty crappy health insurance so they definitely don’t offer that rewards system I wish they did though! I might be changing over soon so I will see what I can find. My insurance does offer some gym membership reimbursement which does help. Though I usually only get that 1/2 the year because I have to submit logs for going frequent enough and that typically only happens in the winter when I am running on the treadmill more.

    Besides some prize money, I can’t really think of other ways I have earned money to run! To add to above, I really wish races would just go with more cash, gift certificates, and race entries instead of hardware. I mean, I have some hardware I love but at the same time- it’s not as useful and really just collects dust after time.

    1. That stinks on the insurance front! The Humana program does a couple of things — first, it verifies my gym membership and awards points for visits there (I’m not sure how that magic works) and then my Garmin is also linked to my account, so any workout I record with it earns points (although I think I’m limited to one per day).

  3. Oh, Humana Vitality. I had it through work, too – and was sad to switch jobs and lose it. I bought my Fitbit with points! (Oddly enough, I think I also bought my Kate Spade purse with points just before I left.) I remember that I always maxed out my yearly points for workouts/races and was mad that there was a cap!

    1. When I left my last job, I wasn’t sure if my points would carry over (my Platinum status didn’t, and I’m still peeved about that), so I spent them all on an Amazon gift card to buy a new Kate Spade briefcase!

  4. A pizza shop in the town I live in has tags on their pizza boxes, collect 10 tags and get a free cheese pizza. When I go out for an early morning run, I’ll head for the part of town that has recycling that day. Most times I can collect 6-7 straight for the top of the recycling bin, around $10 in pizza money. It helps when eating 4-5 meals a day.

    1. Glad you all enjoyed. I don’t tell anyone in my running group for fear of competition or anyone outside of running for fear of weird looks. I live in a state were you can return cans for 5 cents. There’s an older gentleman that drives around collecting from recycling bins. Waste of time and gas compared to what I collect on a morning run.

  5. My health insurance used to have some sort of rewards program, but it was like you could earn points to buy more insurance or something. I’d be all over an Amazon gift card reward program! Have definitely found money while out running. The other day I saw a 20 euro bill on the ground and was about to pick it up, but someone else, coming from the other direction, was faster.

  6. I’ve gotten prize money a few times for placing in ultras, mostly free race entries though! At work, we have a wellness program where “active minutes” can earn you money back on your health insurance or appreciation points for gift cards and such. I’ve bought new shoes a few times from using points for gift cards.

  7. My job or health insurance don’t offer perks for running. I think I’m one of maybe 4 people at my job who run, and I work remotely anyway. They tried to start a couch to 5K once and it was a flop. I felt bad for the guy who tried to start it because he was pretty passionate. Honestly, I wish my health insurance better covered things runners need. I don’t have any coverage for PT or chiro and wish I did (kinda jealous of my friends who do).

    Love that you find money on the run! I have only found a few dollars, but outside bars on Saturday or Sunday morning is usually the best place to find it. I have won money at a few local races, including one that was called “Run for Change” and I won a jar full of change. It was $25 and the race fee was $20, but it was fun to get a big jar of change!

  8. I found $40 on a run once, but i also had my wallet stolen from my car during a half marathon once so I guess that off-sets. Saddest thing – bunch of runners on a post-race high coming back to our cars to discover they’d all be broken into.