People enter marathons for all sorts of reasons- prove to themselves how strong (physically and mentally) they are, test their fitness levels, raise money for charity, etc., etc., but hardly anyone participates for the health benefits of the activity. And if you think this is not true, there are a good few thousand of runners, who took part in the Beijing marathon this year, proving this statement.
Citizens of Beijing woke up on Sunday morning, only to see a thick smog, once again exceeding the recommended by World Health Organization levels. I guess, for many, it was just another day in the city, but this time, it coincided with the city’s yearly marathon. The organizers refused to cancel the event, and despite the numerous warnings, thousands of people went ahead and completed it.
The pollution levels were incredibly high. The monitor at the embassy of the US measured a value of 400 micrograms per cubic metre, when the maximum recommended by the WHO is 25 micrograms per cubic metre. Although quite a number of runners decided to give up due to the extreme pollution, thousands still completed it and proudly stated that “they are used to” the smog, and casually wore their face masks.
But can you really get used to deadly pollution? I do believe that there is one fundamental question that no one seems to be asking. Why would anyone expose their own body to such incredible pollution? Every single one of the participants went to the start line, realizing the extreme danger they put themselves into, yet so few of them decided not to take part. A runner should know that doing any exercise, not even a marathon run, in such circumstances is the exact opposite of healthy.
I might lose a few supporters here, but I do believe it is about the right time people start taking responsibility for their own health and safety. Obviously the organizers had some reasons not to cancel the event (most probably financial), but it is the people, who should have acted and raised against it. Now, who is to blame if these guys end up in a hospital?
Instead of using this example to urge for immediate actions against deadly urban pollution, the healthy people, with stamina good enough to take them through a whole marathon, decided to expose themselves to this, with smiles on their faces.
Image (c) Chas Pope