Run, Sponge, Repeat: China Holds Marathon With Runners Wearing Masks and Cleaning Skin To Deal With Hazardous Air Pollution

220px-Air_Raid_Precautions_on_the_British_Home_Front-_Anti-gas_Instruction,_c_1941_D3948The 34th Beijing International Marathon was held on Sunday — an event long-planned by the government to highlight its economic development and tourism. It did not work out quite that way. Instead of a marathon, the race looked like a competition to see who could hold their breath for over 26 miles after pollution levels surpassed the hazardous level. It looked more like a medical emergency with hundreds of runners using oxygen masks to breath and using sponges to clean off pollution on their skin. The government of course reported only “moderate” pollution. When the Chinese government says that pollution is moderate, it may be time to be a couch potato at home like this lovely couple.

The marathon began in Tiananmen Square. When I last visited the square I could not see a quarter of the way across due to pollution.

While the Chinese Athletic Association and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports, said “there might be slight or moderate smog,” most citizens rely on the U.S. Embassy’s readings which reported the air as “hazardous” to breath. The air measured 344 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 particulate matter. That is roughly 14 times the level of 25 micrograms considered safe by the World Health Organization. Most would say that people should stay inside in such hazardous conditions but the Chinese government called it moderate and held a marathon with thousands sucking in such hazardous air for over 26 miles.

The organizing committee did make 140,000 sponges available at supply stations so runners could “clean their skin that is exposed to the air.” Lovely.

I suppose it is more historically consistent to hold such races in Beijing since the original marathoner, the Greek soldier Pheidippides, died after running from Marathon to Athens.

Source: CNN

15 thoughts on “Run, Sponge, Repeat: China Holds Marathon With Runners Wearing Masks and Cleaning Skin To Deal With Hazardous Air Pollution”

  1. Karen,
    I’d say don’t hold your breath; but then again, if you lived in Bejing that’s probably what the Doctor orders. 😉

    1. Olly – the Chinese solution right now is the same one that LA tried. Pretend it doesn’t exist and pray for the days the wind blows it away.

  2. My Dad always said to keep an eye on China. I imagine they will figure out how to clean up the air and still manufature unlike us when we sent our business to them

  3. Karen S – “Ain’t Communism and Socialism grand? All those promises they fed their people on a better, more equal life for all worked out swimmingly.”

    Karen, Although I am not pro communism or Socialism I can say that China is trying to deal with their pollution. I am currently involved with their gas turbine development. We send guys over to Beijing almost monthly. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Chinese and their govt. I talking with co-workers who have gone over there, there are times I think China is more free market than we are. they have tons of engineers, they are young, but they are smart and their time will come when they will start demanding more.

  4. We need to make sure China and Russia get DVD’s of Fat Al Gore’s polemic, An Inconvenient Truth. That will get their minds right.

    1. Nick – it may be a little harder now that they are cracking down on pirating DVDs in China since they decided they wanted movies from the USA, but you used to be able to get anything you wanted. I am sure the same is true in Russia.

  5. That’s awful. I have friends who lived in Hong Kong. They kept sending me links to their daily air quality report, which always seemed to be in the Red Zone. At least it was accurate.

    We unfortunately have a Tragedy of the Commons in our atmosphere, because this terrible pollution unfortunately does not have the good manners to stay over the country that produced it.

    David – Russia is another heavy hitter in creating pollution. I’d rather swim in toxic sewage than in one of their most polluted rivers. Oh, wait, it’s the same thing . . .

    Ain’t Communism and Socialism grand? All those promises they fed their people on a better, more equal life for all worked out swimmingly.

  6. At least in Russia I found the hotels provided gas masks for you, right next to the hair dryer. I ought to dig up a picture to share. In China, I did not find that was the case, but the air pollution is just as much a problem.

  7. If we can’t solve our own problems we might as well solve someone else’s for them eh?

    “Thou map of woe!!” – Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida)

  8. I have been invited to China several times but refuse to go because of the pollution. No sense killing myself. My understanding is that many of the runners wore masks to protect themselves from the pollution.

  9. If pollution can get so bad that people must wear masks and still a government, any government, doesn’t forbid the burning of fossil fuels, because too many people are making money from it, then there is no hope for mankind.

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