Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 25 Jul 2004 12:39:09 -0400

Identify Yourself


(rerun from July 1999 RC)

Her name was Victoria Place, but no one knew it at the accident scene or later at the hospital. She was running near her Des Moines, Iowa, home when a car struck her as she crossed a street.

The woman flipped into the air, landed on her head and was hurt too badly to identify herself. She'd been running alone, and none of the runners who arrived after the accident knew her. She carried no identification.

Steve Bobenhouse, who owns the Fitness Sports store in Des Moines, said later, "The second tragedy of the situation was that relatives could not be notified for five hours. A picture of her from the scene of the accident had to be broadcast over the TV before she could be identified."

Meanwhile doctors had treated her without knowing who she was and what her medical history or possible reactions to medication might have been. The story ended well, with Victoria surviving her injuries and leading runners in her community to rethink the common practice of training in complete anonymity.

"How about an article on how many people run without carrying identification with them?" said Bobenhouse, whose store serves more runners than any other in his state. "I know that I did it for 20 years."

I plead guilty too. My running extends back even longer than Steve's, and the only times I'd ever identified myself was with by wearing a race number. I was lucky never to have needed more than that.

Not wanting to dwell on an incapacitating injury or illness occurring during a run, I did nothing to prepare for this possibility -- remote as it might be. I nearly always ran only with my dog, unknown to anyone who might pass.

The dog carried an identifying tag, but I wore none. (He once disappeared without wearing his license tag, and served a short but miserable sentence in the pound as a "John Dog" before we tracked him down.) Imagine having an official trying to learn your name, address and phone number by calling Animal Control.

After promising Steve Bobenhouse to mend my ways, I began running with a simple -- and possibly inadequate -- identifying mark. This was my name and phone number written along the white midsole on the inner edge of each shoe. I trusted authorities to take notice if they ever needed this information.

This solution was better than none, but not as effective as others might be. You might want to carry a driver's license or business card... or wear an ID bracelet, necklace or shoelace tag, which is vital if you suffer from a medical condition that medics need to know about immediately.

I don't want to scare anyone, including myself, into thinking that an accident is about to claim you as it did Victoria Place. The odds are overwhelming that no one will ever need to check your identity this way. But it's better to carry ID and never use it than to need it and not have it.

UPDATE. For my family's peace of mind, if not my own, I now wear an ID bracelet. It's the version sold by


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