Thursday, March 24, 2011

Race Management 101: Learning from the Best

We recently sat down to chat with three of the busiest race directors on the East Coast to find out more about just what a race director does and does not do, and to get a look at the part of a race that most runners rarely see. We spoke with Dave McGillivray, race director for the Boston Marathon and Beach to Beacon Race in Maine, Linda Toretsky of Lin-Mark Computer Sports, and Les Marella of L & M Computer Sports.

Jack Heath: What is the name/web address of your company?
Dave: Dave McGillivray of Sports Enterprises Inc (aka DMSE, Inc.;

Linda Toretsky: LIN-MARK Computer Sports, Inc.;

Les: L & M Computer Sports; is our url.

Linda Toretsky Giving Pre-Race Instructions

JH: How long have you been putting on races?
Dave: 26 years

Linda: 20+ years.

Les: Or to express it more accurately, “how long have you been timing races” since we don’t actually put races on, that task is left to the race director who in turn hires us to take care of entrant data, timing all finishers, and producing results at the end of an event, and eventually displaying those results on the Web site. All of the timers you know Jack rarely act as race directors. Gene and Jane Hoopes of Athletes Korner Timing Systems have a couple events they oversee the entire works for, like the Turkey Day 5K at Cooper River. And it’s interesting you phrase your question that way, because most entrants tend to think race timers handle the whole kit and kaboodle--from drumming up race sponsors, ordering awards and T-shirts, seeking volunteers, and touching base with township officials and police to be granted permission to hold an event in their town. It's just about impossible to take care of all these tasks when handling an average of three races a weekend during the season for us.

JH: What got you started?
Dave McGillivray Hard at Work
Dave: I owned a store, and started out producing a few events to promote the store.

Linda: We were challenged to utilize the computer to score races. No one was really doing it. We were among the first to do it.

Les: Another fellow high school teacher who came from the running community said that there’s room for a faster and more accurate way to record results at races. I thought about it and said, “you’re right, I’m tired of waiting around for incorrect results. I’m ready.”

JH: What influenced you to become a race director/timer?
Dave: I found I became more passionate about producing events than putting shoes on people’s feet.

Linda: We were one of the first to implement computers in the scoring of races. This was at the time when just about all races were being scored by pulling tags and stapling them to boards, then getting results with clipboards. We started with barcoding the tags, scanning them into a computer, then sorting the tags/finishers in the scoring program known as “Runscore.”

Les: See my answer above.

JH: Do you also do course measurement?
Dave: No, we don’t.

Linda: We do not do “official” certified course measurements. We call on the certified state USATF persons to handle it.

Les: We don’t. But course measurements, to be exact, are done by a few USATF certified individuals who will meet with a race director and go over a proposed course. They measure it out by wheel or a Jones counter on a bike and record Start/Finish and Mile Markers on the course and present the map to the governing USATF body and then a printout is provided for the race director. The cost is usually less than $200. for this service. This feature is a plus for the race director who is interested in developing a course that’s exact, knowing runners will appreciate a certified course. If it’s certified, the race director will usually be sure to mention that on their race application.

JH: What are the biggest races you’ve put on?
Dave: B.A.A. Boston Marathon, 2004 Women’s Olympic Trials, Triathlon World Championship, TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K.

Linda: This past September we timed the 5K Run & Walk Tunnel to Towers, in NYC with over 18,000 participants. Competitively, the largest would be the Shamrock Sports Festival in VA Beach. Last year there were over 13,000 finishers in the events. Multi-Events would be the Timberman Triathlon (New Hampshire) with over 3,000 triathletes, all getting five splits.

Les: The biggest races we’ve timed (or lent a hand in co-race directing) have been the Ben Franklin Bridge Run, or the Sea Isle City 10 Miler, both over a thousand entrants. We tend to gravitate to the smaller races, where things have a chance to run smoothly. Nothing beats the feeling of having results correct and presented in a timely fashion.


JH: How long did it take you to recoup your initial investment?
Dave: I didn’t have an initial investment.

Linda: Because of the technology we utilize, we are always investing back into the company, both on the level of equipment, Web-page services, our own entry online service; to make a profit on our initial investment of equipment: about five years.”

Les: I’m not aware or have even thought about this element of the business. Sure there were a few thousand dollars spent on a vehicle, timing equipment, etc., but I sensed things would pan out. Remember, this was a side business, almost a hobby. Teaching occupied five days of the week, race timing two days between March and November.

JH: Do you think timing chips are a good thing?
Dave: Well, the technology is definitely a good thing.

Linda: It’s the only way to go for any event with over 300 finishers.

Les: They can be a great feature for the bigger races, (over a thousand runners in a 5K course), but no matter how you cut it, there’s going to be front-end work or back-end work for a timer in preparing for a race. The chip includes a lot of back-end work--making sure all have been returned, if not, contacting the race director, sending a bill for those unreturned chips. Thinking about that caused us to keep the stress and potential aggravation level low; the reason why we didn’t invest.

JH: Typically how many races do you put on in a year?
Dave: We put on about 20 races.

Linda: 50+ for us.

Les: We’ve averaged 65 events each year, from mid-March to mid-November; eight months.

JH: Can you name three of the strangest things that have happened in your races?
Dave: Someone drained the lake we were permitted to swim in before a triathlon; horse manure on the course at Boston; and I once got locked in a port-o-john by accident at the start in Boston.

Linda: Nude finishers (or nearly nude)! After all these years, what’s strange? Some of the people themselves!

JH: Can you describe a race where something went wrong?
Dave: In the Goodwill Games Triathlon--almost everything went wrong!

Linda: I think the worst is death at an event. Can never get over it. During a triathlon, swim, running events. Very traumatic.

Les: There’s always one event a year where something seems to go wrong, whether it’s the Time Machine, (which records the finishing times for each runner) wants to stop working and so while the order of finish is correct there isn’t a time for finishers when displaying results. Or the printer doesn’t want to work and results are read from the laptop at the awards ceremony. But nothing compares to the dreams (or nightmares) you have leading up to an event where no matter what you do in getting ready, finishers start coming in and the finish-line chute and clocks are not set up yet. We’re always good for a nightmare or two each season.

JH: In what way has the Internet affected the way you put on races?
Dave: I can multi-task more than ever and communicate better than ever!

Linda: It’s the only way we conduct our business! Many events that we time, do not even send out entry forms any more. All event info is now online: entry, results…the entire event!

Les: It's a very big feature now. Before the Internet it used to be important to get the overall order of finish printed and displayed at the race site by the time the awards ceremony was over for all to then see how they did. Results might even be mailed to all finishers either by post cards or big printouts. Now finishers know that by noontime, with most races, results are up on the site to satisfy their curiosity. And now most timers keep results displayed for a few past years for athletes to compare things.

JH: How have runners changed (if at all) in the last 25 years?
Dave: I think today it’s more about participation vs. competition.

Linda: Aaaah, all too hard-headed. Once a runner, always a runner! But basically their clothing (for some), and better running shoes. A lot now want and expect fast reporting of accurate results. They deserve it.

Les: The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that now there are more 40- and 50-year-old athletes competing compared with 20- and 30-year-olds years ago. The runners then have continued to stay active and thus we see them appearing in bigger numbers in the upper age groups. From where I stand, the athlete these days, no matter the sport, is usually faster, stronger, and more athletic then in the past. This is probably all brought about by proper training techniques.

JH: What are the two biggest trends in running now?
Dave: Walking more than running; more women, and more families.

Linda: There is more technical training info available--better info. There is easily accessible information now available through the Internet on the events-- information which permits more travel with friends, and fun!

Les: Geez, we could talk about running-shoe technology to nutrition to a well-planned training regime to even hiring a trainer for helping you become better; all could be trends we’re noticing.

JH: Do you think there are less races being put on now? If yes, why?
Dave: No, there are more races now.

Linda: Not sure, but cost is a big factor. Running fees are basically low and without sponsorship/corporate support, the profit margin is very, very low especially in smaller events.

Les: I tend to think there are more events, but what I do notice is there is a discontinuing of the classic events that used to be popular around the area. The Stop the Jade Run in Vincentown, NJ that seemed to open the season each March for example. The Haddonfield and Cherry Hill, NJ races from twenty years ago. But I suppose it’s just meant to be that way, I notice there’s sometimes a three-year life span to a race director. If there’s a good race-directing committee then events can continue, but finding volunteers to step up to lend a hand can be a real challenge. I’ll never forget the time a race director, at her event while getting ready to announce the winners said, “if there’s anyone here that thinks putting on a race is a walk in the park for us ought to step up and do it one time. You’d have so much compassion for every individual you come into contact with at a race you’d be filled with nonstop thank yous and you’d see all the work that goes in to making you, the runner, happy and fulfilled.”

JH: What do you see as the biggest trends in your races?
Dave: As I said walking more than running; more women and more families.

Linda: A lot of events now realize they must get support to make a profit and have funds to benefit the race cause. They also realize that they must have good Web exposure, and good timing services with the fast and accurate means to access/receive race-day results.

Les: More of the upper age-group runners competing these days

JH: Do you think there is less coverage of running in the popular media?
Dave: Maybe not less, but still not much.

Linda: I don’t think that the media ever gave running its due. Unless it was a NYC level marathon with big runners, it’s just not there. This hurts running in getting the exposure and desire out to our youth. They are the future of all sporting venues. Must get and keep the young people involved.

Les: I think so, outside the local Runners Gazette there ought to be more mention in say, the Courier-Post (local South Jersey newspaper) for example.

JH: What do you like best about race directing/timing?
Dave: Feeling good that I helped raise people’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

Linda: I do not, well  I “tri” very hard not to direct road races. God Bless the road-racing directors. A very tough job. But the best part would be to have a good number of entrants, a good course, and good weather!

Les: Regarding the timing side, it’s always nice to see the regulars back for another season come each March. Also, making sure the results are processed quickly and accurately is satisfying. The race director and the timer are in a relationship that can’t help but influence each other, if the race director has their operation buttoned down, we notice that and tend to step up and lend just as high an integrity element, too.

JH: What is the toughest problem you’ve faced while putting on a race?
Dave: We once had a road re-opening during a race with people still out on the course.

Linda: A monsoon-level rain setting up the event and during. It’s a killer in the level of participants (there is that financial equation again), and who wants to be out working or running in a flood!?

Les: As far as race directing, gathering in sponsorship dollars is unquestionably the toughest part. When I provide consulting ideas to a new race director, I mention something like--“You’re going to want to try to generate say $2500. for your first-time event here in Camden County, NJ and you’ll want to generate that by way of sponsors. Just think of your family and friends in the business world who you or your committee members know, especially those involved in something that is at least indirectly related to running. Do you know any wellness doctors or chiropractors? Any sports stores? Any health-food stores? Because you’re going to want to generate that much to take care of your awards, T-shirts, postrace eats, and finish line/timing. You’d love to go into a race where any entry fees go toward your charity. You’d rather not go into a race needing X amount of runners to break even, since weather can play such a pivotal role.”

JH: What advice would you give someone who wants to put on a race?
Dave: Work a few first before taking the plunge!

Linda: Keep beer or wine handy for when the day is done. Have your head examined.
Seriously, a good support team, knowledgeable race committee (that can work together); do your homework i.e., course, site, budget.
Les: Surround yourself with organized individuals, because you’re going to want to delegate certain responsibilities and know that they’ll get accomplished. If you have enough on your committee you could petition someone to take care of securing sponsors, another for researching T-shirts, another checking with an awards or trophy store, another handling the postrace snacks, and another to handle the registration and awards ceremony, and yet another to handle the race course logistic--from water stops, cones, signs, and the volunteers needed out there. One person could handle a couple chores, but be careful someone is not overextended.

JH:What are some of the common causes of a race’s demise?
Dave: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!

Linda: You need to rotate the committee, keep all involved, see who likes to do what. Encourage, thank people, keep going for financial support. Keep politics out of the event.

Les: Burnout from the race director, plain and simple. Maybe not enough fresh blood coming into the group to continue the pursuit. Remember, behind the scenes, where runners never see what goes on, you’re meeting with town officials and police for permission to even hold the event, you’ll hope they’re agreeable.

JH: What is a good way to get more kids running?
Dave: Get their parents running first!

Linda: Stop training or racing them so hard! Within five years they peak and burnout. Develop them more slowly and try to keep it fun. Make it a “game.”

Les: A teacher or administrator at the school will make the biggest difference. They would have the enthusiasm to start something like this. Find another co-race director to help you and you’re on your way. I would say, come out to the Run Against Drugs One Miler and 5K in Seabrook, NJ and see how they’ve made their event a success after 18 years. Have a one-mile run on or near the school grounds, with a lot of young age groups to be acknowledged at the award ceremony. The announced recognition for a youngster would be unforgettable. It becomes a contagious activity every Spring with over 200 one milers lately.

JH: What is the most common thing that runners/people who hire you do not know about race directors in general?
Dave: How much time they have to invest in producing an event.

Linda: The depth of our knowledge and experience, but for us we have been in the business so long with many repeat events, that we now do not take on too many new events.
As many know, we are heavily into multi-events such as triathlons, duathlons, swims.
It is an entirely different level of sporting event; a different “animal,” so to speak.
For us, it has been a good thing. As your questions point out, you are aware that the running scene is a very difficult venue. To have put all our eggs into one basket would have narrowed our business. It has pushed us to grow technically, the field we cover, and our sporting exposure.
Our first love though remains running, as I said, “Once a runner, always a runner!”

Les: You’ll probably glean most of this response from my answers to the “What is the toughest problem you’ve faced while putting on a race?” Sponsorship dollars etc., a couple questions earlier, Jack.

JH: Which one of your races would you like the most to run in?
Dave: Boston, and I do already run it every year.

Linda: Right now the “race of life.” To be healthy, to continue to be able to participate in all sports that challenge us. Right now I have been into the “game of tennis” on a competitive level both in training and playing. But, the years as a runner have helped on the courts.
They can’t stand it that I never get winded, and that I can run everything down, the running legs are still here!

Les: You tend to think of those events that have become a rite of passag--like the Sea Isle City, NJ 10 Miler. Even though 70% of the runners are from PA, runners still show up to do it “one more time” no matter the conditions. There’s a good support audience close to the runners as they’re on the promenade. Lots of cheering and activity. The Berlin, NJ Parade 5K was that way. It was the most undiscovered 5K in South Jersey, just before the parade on July 4th. You had a few thousand spectators assembled along the route and especially in that last mile you couldn’t help but be aware of the spectators around you. Big fun.

Thanks, Dave, Linda, and Les, for your wisdom, insight, and for all you do for our sport.
You’ve given Runners Gazettes readers a chance to learn from the best.

Written by Jack Heath for Runners Gazette Magazine

Click here for Runners World's "5 Boston Marathon Questions for Dave McGillivray:"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So you want to be a Race Director...

Browning Ross
I had run in over 600 races, but I never really thought about what goes into actually putting on a race until I directed my first race. I had even accompanied and assisted Browning Ross as he put on dozens of his races and that did not prepare me. Browning made it look so effortless-- pulling a clipboard, watch, Popsicle sticks and prizes from his car and—voila'! He was ready to go.

Few people (how about no one else?) have the skill to pull that off. For us mere mortals, race directing takes time, money, plenty of coordination, flexibility and constant communication and knowledge about who actually does what to make a race come together.

Since my first race directing experience, I have received a Phd. in what can go wrong—and luckily also in what can go right. At least now I now what it takes to put on a race—just how complicated it is. Before getting started, a prospective be race-director needs to know the following:

Race Timers (and what else) not included: First, did you know that race timers cost money? Most of the dozen people that call me during the year for help on their races do not. People who are interested in putting on a race as a fund-raiser and have no idea race timers are usually charging $ 800-1200 and up just to time a race. Over the years, we have seen more than one race organizer with no course measured, or course volunteers present the day of the race because they thought the race timers would provide everything, and handle all race details even though it was never discussed. We have seen many races spend $800 on race timing that have had only a few dozen runners.

You might need help with the course: Race organizers also probably have no reason to know a race timer may not necessarily map out and measure your course for you—especially if you did not ask them for the service and are not paying for it. Often, race timers have no idea of the details of your course. There is definitely no alchemy at work here—if you are paying only for race timing that is most likely all you will get.

You still have to have someone come up with a course and possibly measure and certify it.

Also, consider many parks and townships ask for permits and insurance and you may need police for traffic control if the runners are crossing traffic. These things also may cost money and the race timers will not seek these approvals automatically.

Do you have race t-shirts? Most runners expect a quality shirt as a race souvenir. Shirts cost money although sponsors can sometimes defray the cost. Speaking of sponsors, don’t be surprised if the sponsors come through the day before or even after the race have passed. You may need to pay most if not all of the race bills before then. For example, expect to pay around $10-12 for a good quality long sleeve shirt, plus art and set up charges. Finally, there is the matter of how many shirts to order. Too many and you will have boxes of them in your attic (and of course the unnecessary expense), order too few and you will have some disappointed runners.

What are you going to do for prizes? Speaking of unhappy runners, a quick way to disappoint a runner is by not meeting their expectations for prizes. One of the first races I put on had less than 50 runners but one angry runner was demanding a Clydesdale prize(first male runner over 200 lbs.) I told him I would drop it off at his house before next years’ race. Another runner was first in the over 60 category-- but was insulted that he did not get a prize for the over 70 category because, he was over 70. Don’t forget that prizes are also an expense. We have put on many races that give all the children a free entry and a shirt, medal or trophy for participation.

Expect the unexpected: Be prepared. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. For example, for a recent race, we had ordered 300 numbers and we had only 16 entries less than 2 weeks before the race. While we were busy calculating the number of future races we could use the extra numbers for, entrees started to arrive-- first as a trickle then as a deluge. We had over 500 runners show up for the race wiping out our supply of entry blanks, numbers and even pins, but the late turnout was good news for the charity it benefitted.

Should you delegate? If you delegate race duties, be sure to double check that everyone is carrying out their assigned duties as close to the race as possible. We’ve been involved with races where delegation did not work as planned-- The person assigned to bring the entry blanks for race day sign-up forgot to bring them, or the person assigned to bring the pins forgot them, and other incidentals like staples for the staple guns (for pinning race results on the board) .

Luckily for this particular race we were able to compensate. Although we were not able to pin up all the race results, we had decided in advance  to give the first 20 men and women finishers awards in the chute-- just like in the old (pre 1970’s running boom)  days. If we had age-group awards in this race we would still be attempting to sort it out. Having a plan B and C often helps.

Hey, remember me? Be prepared for “friends” you vaguely know or maybe have never even met before the race to arrive looking for a free entry-- this confuses your volunteers. We have had race day registrants say they have signed up online (before the race had implemented an online sign up) frequent racers may have been confused with another race for which they had signed up online.
     Be prepared to field a lot of strange phone calls asking about race expos, prize structures, altitude of the course (our response: “above river level”) and percentage of male to female entrants and age graded prizes, detailed course maps in advance etc. In this tight economy, people do not spend their $15-25 frivolously. We once had the manager for some 2nd tier World Class Kenyan runners ask us what the race budget was. He quickly hung up when he heard our reply $500 (which included t-shirts and awards!)
It is worth it: You have probably guessed by now that it takes plenty of time and coordination to plan to put on a race, and although it is great for us runners, it may not be the best way to raise funds. When the race comes together;  when it’s finally completed and you see the looks on the race participants faces, you get a feeling of satisfaction that it just might have been worth it after all.

Note: This article originally appeared in Runners Gazette Magazine along with an interview of some top race directors--Race Management 101. This accompanying article contains more detailed information on race management, and is also now found in this ramscrosscountry blog

Monday, March 14, 2011

Remembering Herb Lorenz

Note: Author Vince Phillips (pictured right with Herb) ran for and was a life long friend of Herb Lorenz.
Quick: name all American distance runners with both a 4:02 mile and a 2:17 marathon in their resume. Whatever short, distinguished list you were able to generate was just reduced by one. On February 27, 2011, Herbert Joachim Lorenz, arguably one of America’s greatest distance runners of the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, and absolutely one of its greatest masters runners ever, passed away at the relatively tender age of 71.

Born in Franfurt, Germany on April 7, 1939, Lorenz’s early years were shaped by the ravages of World War II. His father was killed in the conflict when Herb was just five years old and his widowed mother re-married when he was nine. When his mother and step-father moved to the United States, Herb stayed with his grandparents in the small village of Kronberg, When Lorenz was fourteen, his mother sent for him. Traveling with his few worldly possessions in a small bag and even less English in his vocabulary, he came to his new home aboard the SS United States and eventually settled in the small country town of Pemberton, New Jersey.

Not afforded the assistance of today’s English as a Second Language courses, Lorenz sat in the back of the room, paid close attention and eventually learned the language. When required to run a mile in gym class, he cruised the track in 5:30, with his classmates far behind. His school had no track team at the time, but when word of Lorenz’ mile got to one of his teachers, the teacher decided to form a team. The “team” was Herb. As a sophomore in high school he finished second in the state in the mile and as a junior he finished fourth, running both races in the 4:30’s—all on the basis of his own, self-coached training. His senior year was more pre-occupied with getting into college than running and he ended up at Trenton State College—now The College of New Jersey—where, still virtually uncoached, he demonstrated his vast potential and range with bests of 49.7, 1:54, 4:12 and 9:30.

At a time when most runners ended their careers upon graduating from college, Lorenz continued to train and race, and in 1964 he moved back to South Jersey with his new wife Irma, took a job as a shop teacher at Burlington Township High School and began a coaching career that was to last nearly four decades and be at least as successful as his own competitive career. His runners not only earned many individual and team honors during this time, but also benefited immensely from the lessons of character that Herb imparted. Inspired by Lorenz, many of his athletes went on to become teachers and coaches themselves.

Throughout the rest of the ‘60’s he was a regular in AAU national track races at 3 and 6 miles, became the dominant distance runner on Middle Atlantic road racing scene (supplanting two-time Olympian and South Jersey native Browning Ross in that role) and was twice a member of national teams sent to compete in the World Cross Country Championships. In 1969, he won the famous Berwick, PA “Run for the Diamonds” in a course-record 45:18. At the urging of ultra-marathoner Harry Berkowitz, Lorenz moved up to the longer distances. In 1971, he just missed making the Pan-Am team in the marathon, losing only to winner Kenny Moore and novice-marathoner Frank Shorter in the trials. In 1975, he set an American age-36 record of 2:17:43 in the Boston Marathon and in 1979 he won the master’s division of the Beantown classic with a record 2:24:41. He went on to set American Master’s records of 30:41 for 10K, 47:18 for 15K (roads), 47:59 for 15K (track), 1:04:42 for 20K, 1:07:54 for the half-marathon and 1:19:58 for 25K. He was three times awarded the prestigious Nurmi Award by Runners’ World magazine, was inducted into the Road Runner’s Club of America Hall of Fame in 1989 and continued to run mind-boggling times well into his 50’s.

Recurring injuries and debilitating medical issues finally slowed him to a stop. For the past several years, Lorenz had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia, an extremely rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As he had done in so many races over so many years, Lorenz battled as valiantly as he could right up until “he crossed the finish line.”

Herb Lorenz is survived by his wife Irma, his son Eric and daughter-in-law Chris, his daughter Diane Stansbury and son-in-law Will and grandchildren Danielle and Brian Lorenz and Randall and Jason Stansbury. He is also fondly remembered by a vast number of his former high school athletes and fellow competitors not only for his phenomenal running achievements but even more for his enduring qualities as a truly humble and selfless human being with a great sense of humor; never particularly comfortable in the lime-light, always willing to help others and quicker yet with his unforgettable laugh, Lorenz was the antithesis of the embarrassingly chest-thumping, self-promoting athletes who unfortunately hold sway with so many of our young people today. He will be missed by anyone fortunate enough to have ever spent any time with him, and future generations of high-school athletes and runners will be poorer for never having known him.

The family requests that any contributions honoring Herb’s legacy be made to the Herbert Lorenz Scholarship Fund, c/o PO Box 1542, Medford, NJ 08055. A scholarship will be awarded to an outstanding South Jersey runner.

Written by Vince Phillips. Courtesy of Runners Gazette Magazine

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Change Is Good

I had a streak going. Twenty-eight years of running, and I had only stopped to pick up money once. The 65 cents I'd found lying on the road bought a soda in the middle of a twelve-mile run on a hot and muggy July day. However, this was different. I saw the money first, lying in a heap in the white sand of a New Jersey cross-country race-- but I couldn't stop. I had conditioned myself never to stop just for money. In fact, I couldn't even slow down for a closer look, even though I knew I had no chance of winning the race or even setting a PR. Why-- years of conditioning. Thoreau would have been proud.

"Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds Jack--that means you're a creature of habit," said my friend Harry, who had stopped to pick up the money- three dollars. Harry was known for keeping track of all the money he'd found on runs. In forty years of running, he'd probably scooped up a small fortune. Despite teasing Harry that "It was five dollars when I ran past it"… I knew he was right. He had started me thinking. Was I too proud to stop? Then for the first time, I started to think about how much money I had seen but never stopped for over the years-- and to ponder what I had missed.

"Stopping during a run to pick up money has always seemed tacky to me, Harry--kind of like an old guy wearing an earring," I said.

"Hey, I paid for these earrings with some of the money I've found running," Harry said. "You ought to give it a try."

I must have looked doubtful. "You can still change your running habits," Harry said studying me closely. "After all, you used to be fast and kind of flexible--you changed that! Try something new. At the least it will give you something else to keep track of in your log—a new kind of PR."

He did have a point--at least the point about me once being flexible, I thought.

Harry said, "You know, I have to admit, stopping to pick up change can get addicting. I once saw a dime laying in the Dunkin Donut drive-through and decided to leave it there until the next day, just to keep a streak alive of consecutive days with money was still there."

Harry then ambled away to the race concession stand. With his newfound three dollars, he bought a hot dog and a soda. "And I still have a dollar left for gas," he yelled to me over his shoulder.

That was enough for me. I decided to follow Harry’s example and log all the money I've found while running this year. The count: eight dollars and forty-six cents. The biggest haul so far: two soggy dollar bills I found right after a thunderstorm. I have to admit, it's not quite a mortgage payment, but it is kind of fun. For some reason, finding two quarters while running is almost as big a thrill as receiving my (almost) yearly raise at work (which is often larger).

Here are some things I have learned from my new "found" hobby:

First, finding money can spice up a mediocre run. There is an extra payoff too--maybe the same feeling you get fishing, or playing the slots--when spying the glint of a coin-- found money, at thirty paces.

Second, when you are in the "find" mode you are receptive to a lot of other stuff that's out there that you probably never would have noticed before. This summer I also found a beer sign that's now over my bar, five new baseballs, and a plastic lizard for my son. The best spots to find money are convenience stores--teenagers can't be bothered with change. It doesn't look cool to pick it up, so often they will just drop their loose coins in the parking lot along with accumulated cigarette butts. The slimmest prospects to “mine” change are where ever kids, or senior citizens, travel on foot. They will stop to stoop.

When I saw Harry, again I let him know that there is a negative side to this newfound coin consciousness-- the risk of injury. Stopping suddenly for coins, or what looks like a coin from thirty-feet away can put a big strain on your core--and make you look pretty eccentric when you slam on the brakes--sometimes for nothing.

The second drawback is something I'd long noticed about my friend Harry; it's what I call "bird eye." You too may have noticed "bird eye" in many long-time runners. It's a condition brought on by running with one's head tilted to the side looking for some currency that others may have missed. If you should see another runner coming towards you, head tilted to the side, paying a little too much attention to the side of the road--just remember I saw it first.

Note: The author found over $16 last year. This article inspired by the late Harry Berkowitz and originally appeared in Runners Gazette Magazine.