I ran a race in the country last summer where a deer came charging out of the underbrush lining the road, bowled a runner over and disappeared into the bushes on the other side. The runner suffered a fractured skull and a concussion. He lay there insensate, totally out of it.
Fortunately, course marshals were swiftly on the scene and an ambulance came for the runner soon after. The runner, who spent the night in the hospital, recovered. Newspapers featured him the next day. He was wearing a race number so everyone knew who he was.
What if he had been on a training run alone when the deer ran him over? Even if he had been found by a passing motorist or another runner, would hospital officials have been able to figure out who he was by going through his garments? Would his family have been able to rush to his side at the hospital?
What if he had died? Would his loved ones have spent hours, or days, agonizing over when, or if, he would return?
Many of us carry no identification when we run. We grab our shoes and head out the door. Free of encumbrances, we run carefree. But we are not free of responsibilities.
Consider this email I recently received from a runner friend:
Yesterday a friend of mine collapsed and died in front of the local courthouse in the morning but because he had no ID at the time, it was last night before his family found out. I need to pick up one of your road ID’s.
Who Are You?
Here in D.C., where it’s hot and humid, it seems like practically every summer some tragedy strikes. A solitary runner collapses on a trail during a weekend run and can’t be revived. Who is the runner? Perhaps the runner lives alone with no family in the area and his or her identity won’t be uncovered until the following week when co-workers notice his or her absence.
I have a dozen pairs of running shoes. Each pair has an ID tag. I use a type of ID tag that is unobtrusive, virtually weightless and practically noiseless which I string through a shoelace. I can’t tell the tag is there. But I run secure in the knowledge that I’ll never be nameless if something happens to me.
Each ID tag is individualized. Each one contains basic information such as my name and an emergency contact. But there are a couple of extra lines to fill in on my tags and that gives me some fun.
Each pair of shoes I own has been through a marathon, and the ID tag on each pair records that particular race in a different way, perhaps noting my time or that it was a PR. On the shoes that slogged through the Inaugural Frederick Marathon, the tag notes that six inches of snowfell during the race. The tag denoting the 2004 Last Chance for Boston Marathon records that it was 0° F at the start and 8°F at the finish. The tag accompanying the shoes I wore in last year’s New York City Marathon has a picture of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on it, the majestic two-mile long structure we started out on.
I give ID tags to running family members and friends as gifts of love, memorialized in a way unique to each person. I tell them, “Please put it on your running shoe, for me. Because I care about you.”
My tag has even served as an ID. Once I was stopped by armed guards demanding identification after I cut across a parking lot adjoining a federal building in downtown DC. Who were they kidding? It was a hot
summer day and I didn’t even have a shirt on, just shorts, socks and shoes. I showed them the ID tag on my shoe to “prove” who I was. Satisfied that I was somebody, they let me go.
I wouldn’t be without an ID tag on each pair of running shoes. With it, I’m somebody. Without it, I’m nobody.