In this era of running for money instead of just the gold, many top runners are now requesting and receiving serious dollars for appearances, clinics, seminars, endorsements and for participating in major road races. Hey, they deserve every penny they can get.
But what about the rest of us poor souls who aren't up for auction? We are the foundation and the base behind the sport of road racing. Where's our cut? Why is it that so few are reaping the financial benefits? Is there any way that the rest of us can "find" a little spare change within our cherished sport?
Don't despair. As the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way. On a business trip I took a long time ago, I uncovered, through a close friend, an uncanny method to make money simply by running.
How, do you ask? It's so easy, even my four-year-old son can do it. This friend of mine, Jim Wilson, was a little hesitant in divulging his tremendously scientific and highly sophisticated methods. But, with a little prying, Pandora's box was eventually opened.
"All you have to do is to develop good finger dexterity and a strong lower back," Wilson wisely offered. "Twenty-twenty vision is also essential."
"What the heck is he babbling about?" I asked.
He then pointed to a jar on the kitchen table.
"There is over $500 in that jar...and I made it all in the last 10 months from running!"
"How'd you do that?" I asked in total amazement.
"I found it all! On the street, in parking lots, on sidewalks...I know it doesn't make me rich, but it's more money than most people make through running."
Wilson started this habit of picking up coins back in 1972. I believe he continues to this day to "clean up" the streets that surround his California neighborhood. However, it now takes a bit longer to cover six miles than it use to.
"I'm not looking for money to spend it," says Wilson. "I feel that looking for coins every time I run is a huge incentive and a way of encouraging me to get out and run every day."
And every day he has. He didn't miss a single day in 12 years!
"There always exists so many pains that tell you to stop. By playing the game of looking for coins, it gives me that extra push to continue each day. It is going to take a lot for me to break this streak," he says.
Wilson has systematically and geometrically laid out his yearly findings in a pleasing, artistic manner. He then frames his creations and hangs these work-of-art chronologically along the walls leading to the second floor of his house.
"It may sound a little strange but I get a pleasant feeling when I find a few lost coins. It's exciting to add them to my collection. I feel like I've given them a deserving home. It is easy to find pennies, dimes and quarters and I have even found a number of fives and tens."
There are years where Wilson didn't miss a day of finding at least one coin.
"My thinking is this - if I can find all the money I have while running in my small confined radius of space, imagine how much money there must be spewed all over the country at this very moment! Why aren't people picking it all up?"
Wilson reported that the most lucrative areas to find money were along parked cars, near curbstones, along intersections where street cleaners have pushed debris aside, surrounding gas pumps as people drop money while reaching for their keys and near coin operated laundromats.
"The gold mines are telephone booths, newsstands and especially fast food drive throughs as people who drop coins are too lazy and don't bother to get out of their cars to pick them up."
Wilson has also ingeniously incorporated built-in incentives to motivate his eternal search for the US mint.
"If I have a good day and I am approaching the dollar amount, I won't go home until I find the amount that will put me over the top. Sometimes I use my age as a minimum and set a goal of finding at least that amount in cents. In fact, I won't even come home unless I find at least one measly penny!"
However, coins are not the only objects he labors to seek out on his daily runs. The list of his findings is endless: a frozen turkey, a wig, every imaginable tool, wallets, purses, license plates, toys, athletic equipment, kitchen utensils, full cases of beer, and even a suitcase full of brand-new clothes.
The day I was leaving, Jim burst into my room and threw 17 cents on the table, his findings for the morning. The proof is in the pudding. I immediately decided that if he can do it so can I. What's the big deal? I'm was going to find some money on my next run.
My next run was actually on the streets of Las Vegas, of all places. I couldn't even find a penny. In fact, as I reached into my own pockets later that day, I found a hole and no money!! I figured by then, Jim must have my money framed and hung on his living room wall.