Coin collection pays for marathon trip
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Bryan Davis might not have been looking for luck, but gathering pennies and other coins led to a trip to Hawai'i for the Honolulu Marathon.
Since 1991, Davis has picked up more than 30,000 pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters and an occasional dollar bill while running the streets of Virginia.
The total reached $823.12, enough to pay for his plane ticket and half of the hotel bill. Davis' wife, Debbie, also took the trip from Chesapeake, Va., to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary, but "I actually had to pay real money for her," he said.
Davis, a 47-year-old software engineer for the Department of Defense Naval Safety Center, is one of 23,737 entrants for Sunday's race.
He said that the number of runners who search for coins "is more than you think, but it is more unusual than normal."
The largest yearly sum he collected was $112.41, after logging 2,009 miles in 302 days in 2002. He once found $28.82 in one day.
"People don't believe me. It's more of an 'are you sure that's the right number?' amazement thing. Their initial reaction is shock and awe.
"If you give someone a guess, they would say (the most I've found in a year is) $6," he said. "But when I tell them $100, they say, 'you're kidding, right?' "
It started when friend Mike Brownley began picking up coins on the street and turned Davis and running partners John Scott and Derek Nelson on to the practice.
"(Brownley) would antagonize us and show us how much money he was collecting, so we started picking up our own money," Davis said.
The coins they collected were split among Davis, Scott and Nelson, who call themselves the "Coinhogs."
The Coinhogs who once found a $20 bill while running together coined their own phrases. Avoiding a certain area to let a coin or two collect is "going to seed." Finding five or more coins in one place at one time is a "bonanza."
Davis' favorite term is "McCent," meaning a coin found within 100 yards of a fast-food restaurant.
Among his prized finds are an 1882 Indian head penny and 1902 Russian kopek.
He has found coins from Argentina, the Bahamas, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, the Netherlands and South Africa.
After four to five years of collecting coins, Davis decided to take the money to the bank. When the teller told him he had $500, the first thing he thought was, " 'What can I do with this? I need a purpose for this money.' But it had to be related to running. I kept saving without a defined purpose."
It was several years later when Debbie mentioned that they should take a trip to Hawai'i for their anniversary that Davis, whose goal is to run a marathon in every state, decided that he would do both.
"To be able to have a secondary purpose, to be able to include my wife, it allows me to pay her back with the amount of time I spend to train," Davis said.
He paid for his portion of the trip because it was "symbolic."
After Sunday's race, Davis said he will begin his running and collecting again, and figures that in 10 to 15 years, he will have saved enough money to run in the Alaska Marathon.
Davis, who says he runs competitively and will not be searching for coins Sunday, has participated in 20 marathons, including the Boston Marathon three times.
"I like the competition," he said. "I'm not the fastest guy by any stretch of the imagination. I may only be competing against myself, but that is enough."
Last Saturday, on his first day training in Hawai'i, Davis found 13 cents while logging five miles through Waikiki. Since then he has found two more pennies.
"It's not enough to get me home," he said.
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com or 535-2457.