Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beware of Robbers

I am guessing that most of you know that we lived in Baltimore before we moved to Berlin. If you know a little bit about Baltimore, you are probably familiar with the fact that crime is not an unusual thing there. There are many stories I could tell you about situations that made me feel anything but safe. Just watching the Baltimore news is disturbing - and so are the statistics on crime.


Since coming to Berlin, there were so many times when Nick and I would say to each other: we could never do this in Baltimore! The other night, I took the subway at 11pm to grab take-out for us - all by myself, while Nick took Lucy for a walk. This is nothing that happens often, and it was only one stop I had to be on the train, but it would still have been unthinkable for us 4 months ago. In Baltimore, we only used public transportation when we went to a baseball game in the middle of the day, and we only took the light rail, and only then, because we knew that there would be mostly fans on the train.

Needless to say, when I went running, I only ran in the daylight, and on specific routes. Not through neighborhoods, only on busy roads, and only around campus where I knew that there is security. Sometimes, I would tie in a lap around the track or just run all over campus.

A few days ago, we heard that there were a number of robberies in Baltimore, which targeted runners in particular. You may have seen or heard it on the news as well. This got me thinking about safety again and with the darker seasons coming up, we should probably remind ourselves that there are a few things we can do to prevent becoming a victim of a crime. Even if you live in a "safer" place than Baltimore, I think it is important to always be aware of the possibility of something happening and not just assume safely, like I am sometimes tempted to do, here in Berlin.

That's very good, Emily.

If you are like me and don't know any self-defense moves, these tips might be helpful:

1.) Don't run with your head phones on and your music turned all the way up.
Most of the time, you will see me wearing only one earbud. I can't run without music, but I still want to be aware of my surroundings. Not only in order to notice, who might be sneaking up on me to murder me, but also to be able to hear cars and other deadly vehicles.

2.) Don't always run the same route.
This can be tricky if you are new to the area, but try to change it up a little bit. This way, you will not only make it harder for stalkers to track you, but you will also be more aware of what is going on around you, because it is a "new" surrounding to you. Always running the same exact roads/ paths, may give you a (wrong) feeling of safety and leave you spacing out and day dreaming during your run. But you want to be alert at any given moment to be able to escape a possibly dangerous situation.

3.) Wear bright clothes.
Not to make potential robbers/ attackers/ murderers more aware of you, but make it easier for drivers and helpful people to see you. If you are waving for help while wearing bright, neon colors, you are much more likely to be seen. Also, when running in the city, you want drivers to see you between everything else that they are paying attention to.

4.) Don't wear expensive phones/ iPods or credit cards and cash on you.
Well, I don't have a cheap mp3 player and I don't own a Garmin (yet! maybe in 20 years when I have a job).
So I am guilty of taking my phone with me. It tells me where I am, how far I have run, my splits, my pace, and it plays music. I wear it in my arm pocket, where I also store my keys, and a piece of paper with my name and my emergency contact. You can also put that information on a wrist band, which I always thought was quite handy - in case someone steals your arm pocket with your phone.

5.) Run on busy roads and against traffic.
This is something I do 98% of the time. Even here in Berlin, you will see me speeding trotting along the biggest and busiest roads. I love window shopping while I run, or look at all the sights, and watch people, so this is no big deal for me. Plus, I get scared easily and the running against traffic has always been really helpful with that, too.

6.) Run with friends.
I don't have any friends, so this isn't something I can actually do.
However, especially when you prefer running on trails, take a friend with you. Please don't run alone with nobody else around. Too much happens on trails and in parks.
I would say, run with a dog, but not all dogs are made for running (specifically long distance). So it depends on the breed of your dog - and of course, if you have one.

7.) Be armed.
If it is legal for you to have it, go get some pepper spray (or something similar). You will hopefully never have to use it, but just the thought of having it and being able to defend yourself, may make you (and your significant other) feel better.
You could even use hair spray, if you can aim well in stressful situations. (I have recently sprayed my eye with hair spray and trust me, it hurts and it will leave you blind for a good 3-4 minutes.) I know runners, who take knives or other sharp utensils with them, but I would just hurt myself with those in my pocket.

These are just a few tips based on my little experience. Some may be more useful than others and I am sure that there are a few things I completely missed to mention. So, please share your thoughts on the topic and add anything to the list that you think is important to include!

Happy and safe running, everyone!

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