If you’ve followed me in any of my running and training endeavors, you’re probably well-aware of the fact that I collect spare change on my runs. And you might have found yourself asking many questions about this. Wait, she picks up coins WHILE she’s running? Where does she put it? How much noise does it make? How much has she collected? Does she pick up change during a race? Has she gotten lockjaw yet?

I have eaglehawk-CIA-vision when it comes to scanning the ground for change, and I’m super proud of this skill. On one pre-sunrise run, I found a glimmering penny in the gutter of a pitch black street. I found Honest Abe in copper form, while visiting his rock self…yes, while dressed as the man himself on the 4th of July at Mt. Rushmore. I know where all of the hot spots to find change are, especially living in the city. I’ve regrettably picked up a pair of pennies from a pile of barf. I never pass up a coin, which often leaves me Frogger-dodging traffic to pick it up from the middle of the street. I collect any and all coins that I find: nickels, pesos, Canadian coins, and yes, even tails-side-up pennies (*audible superstitious gasp*) because “see a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck!”

The truth is, ever since I was a little girl, I experience immense joy and giddy excitement when I find change. It’s the same feeling as when you get BINGO. It’s the snow day feeling. It’s the “ALLLL-RIGHT!!” feeling when your favorite T. Swift song comes on the radio, and you belt it out so hard you’re positive she’s gonna call and ask you to be on tour with her. (Yea Tay, I’m in). 

More than anything, though, finding change (not just on my runs) are my pennies from heaven letting me know that I’m on the right path — rather, on MY right path. This could be confirming the mindset that I find myself in mid-thought when I find a penny. It could mean I’m on the right path at this time in my life. It could mean that my friend, The Universe, is with me when I’m having a hard time, and I’m not alone.  It could be a reminder that everything is going to be ok when I’m having a stress session. Sometimes it’s just icing on the cake to an already epic day.

I remember my record-setting 16 penny find on a snowy spring run when I had been agonizing over if I should stay in my safe corporate job, or take the leap and go for my dreams of being a Funny Runner. I remember the quarter beaming up at me from the gutter as I walked to acting class and caught myself in a daydream of when I am making a living as an actress. I remember the two pennies that appeared at my feet when I was thinking about my grandma, showing me that she was proud!

As I’ve gotten super wise and ultra sophisticated throughout the growth of my roaring 20s, I’ve realized that my pennies from heaven are also my shiny reminders about life:

You won’t always have record-setting penny days. And that’s ok! Some days you’ll find just one penny. Other days, nada. These days are the ones that help to make the jackpot finds that much sweeter. If you found a shit ton of change every day, you’d come to expect it, and it wouldn’t surprise you.

Every single penny adds up towards filling your jar. If you have a goal, no action is too small in propelling you closer to that goal. Run just one mile a day. Apply to just one casting a day. Write just one sentence a day. Before you even know it, you’ve made more progress than you’ve even realized and you’re a marathon-running, Oscar-winning, Stephen King-ing machine!

Go back and count your change. Life and the days go by faster than a race. Reflect on how much you’ve collected. The night before I won the Kansas City Marathon, I counted my pennies, and I had found 262 pennies exactly during all of my training (how’s that for a sign that I’m on the right path, huh?). I thought back on all of the runs I had been on to collect each and every one of those: a peso from my honeymoon in Mexico, a Belizean coin from my wedding, a piece of smashed copper that was once a distinct penny. Be proud of the effort put into finding each coin.

Pennies are like opportunities: if you don’t have hope that you’ll find one and you’re not constantly keeping your eyes out for one, you’ll miss it entirely. When I run, walk or sit, I am constantly scanning the ground because I know that the opportunity to find my pennies are there. And those pennies are just waiting to be found. Keep your eyes out for the pennies that you’re hoping to find, send out the positive vibes that you’ll find those pennies. Maybe you’ll find just one or two, but maybe you’ll hit the motherload of 28 pennies.

You’re not alone. Someone else has been on this exact same path as you. Their penny dropped, and you found it. A week ago, I was deep in the zone on a run, when I found one penny on the trail, then two, three, six, seven, what?! Pennies littered the path. JACKPOT! Then I saw a homeless guy sitting near them. When I asked if they were his, he said they were but not anymore. He kept only the ones he wanted (1985, 2001, ??.) and threw the rest. How funny that a homeless man’s trash was now my ultimate treasure! Don’t forget these moments that keep you human.

The biggest piece of advice that I can offer:

Change is a great thing. But remember to wash your hands after you find it.