Should the Delhi half marathon be cancelled?

Should the Delhi half marathon be cancelled?

I am running a half marathon in Delhi, in exactly 2 weeks, DESPITE the terrible air quality in the city.

I am running the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon because I choose to do so.

I am aware of the disgusting quality of the air that we are condemned to breathe, just by virtue of living in Delhi, but not running for one day is not going to change a thing, in my humble (and totally unscientific) opinion.

Fellow runners, correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we been down this route before?

Shocking pollution, then a plea, just before the race, from people who want it to be cancelled?

Didn’t we have the same scenario last year?

This whole “cancel the Ariel Delhi Half marathon” thing baffles me.  Please do read this link if you wish to get up to speed on this discussion.

But here’s just one extract from the statement issued by the Indian Medical Association for you to consider:

“Hence, we demand that the event be cancelled immediately and postponed to a later date, when air pollution levels are better. IMA will be writing to Hon’ble Delhi Chief Minister, Chief Justice Delhi High Court and the Chairperson, National Green Tribunal in this regard”, added the statement.”

“We demand.”



What does cancelling one race do, pray?

Are we runners the polluters?

I think not.

We are all (by and large) adults and are all (by and large) sensible people, so we are perfectly capable of deciding if we are going to run.  It’s a choice, after all.  Not an obligation.  A choice.

Our choice.

We can all make our own decisions as to when and where and how much to run.

Don’t tell us not to.

Well, don’t tell us not to, unless, of course, you also demanded that the organisers of last Tuesday’s government-organised “Run for Unity” race cancel it.

Did you?

Did you?

Did you tell the government and our Hon’ble PM who flagged off the event of the shocking air quality?

Did you?

And have you demanded that the organisers of tomorrow’s cycle race cancel it?

Have you?

Did you petition the government to close down these two events?

And before issuing a statement demanding that ADHM be cancelled, did you petition the government to stop all cars from driving because of pollution? And halt all construction work because of the dust pollution?

If you did all this, then fine, I’m with you.

If you have indeed tried to close down everything that pollutes us all on a terrifyingly daily basis, then good on you, and yes, go ahead, and petition the organisers of ADHM.

If, on the other hand, this is the only event you are targeting, the question is why?


Is there some reason you are dead set on this event being cancelled, whereas Tuesday’s event, flagged off by none other than our Prime Minister & starring thousands of schoolchildren, was allowed to go ahead unchallenged?

Let’s end with a statement issued by Procam, who are the organisers of the event.

Here’s the link to their full, comprehensive statement.

And here’s the salient bit for you:

“As enshrined by the observations of the Supreme Court, who was seized of this matter last year, stated – “We will not stop or ban any marathon from taking place – as People have a fundamental right to Run.”

The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is inherently a panacea for the pollution issue plaguing Delhi. The Race Day keeps cars off the designated 21kms of the city, and salt mixed with effluent treated water that is used to wash the course, ensures that the dust pollution is negated making the Race Day a far more conducive environment for running.

It has been scientifically established that runners and people with active lifestyles are better suited to be able to deal with the ill effects of a polluted environment and are known to have better immunity.”



  1. Are you/ most people participating wearing pollution masks? I seriously hope so – because the health benefits of running are more than offset by the gross things that this pollution would be doing to a runner’s lungs! (I personally don’t think a ban is appropriate, but an advisory should be given to every participant about the harmful effects of running in this environment, and pollution masks should be made readily available).

    Veb Kumar
    1. Masks are advisable however majority of the runners have covered atleast 15-21km anyway every Sunday during training so won’t make a major difference by only wearing it only for that day. I guess everyone knows how bad it is and really one’s own choice and nto for anyone to impose; precautions are being taken by starting little late that usual. I do hope it gets better.

      Surbhi Bahl
  2. Nicely written as always Christine! Ok – I agree that cancelling the ADHM is not going to achieve anything massive and I’m not one of the people petitioning for it to be cancelled – just as I’m not asking for any races – running or cycling to be cancelled. I agree we all (or most of us anyway) are mature, sensible adults who read up enough before doing whatever physical activity they do, to try and ensure they aren’t doing it incorrectly. All I’m asking is for us citizens to hold our governments more accountable to us when it comes to our right to breathe clean air – and yes I do complain about construction that’s taking place in an unstructured manner, flouting all rules, the fact that our chief minister has allowed all those trucks to pass through delhi to come through after knowing how much damage they cause, the fact that he has allowed the cutting down of some ridiculous number of trees recently, etc etc. My only plea is for everyone to take a stand and sometimes that is only achieved if everyone (and I know that’s a BIG IF) they do it unanimously.

    1. Shalini Dam agreed. I’m not one of those rallying for the event being cancelled anyway. To each his own is what I say…I just am finally applauding the doctors who are coming out and trying to make some noise for the government to sit up and listen. For once it seems like even they are actually wanting to or acting like they’re concerned about doing something for the people’s health.

    2. Christine Pemberton haha…maybe your running group could sport tees with messages about the undesirable pollution levels in the city… or a slogan to highlight the problem or maybe even a call to action. A really simple way could be wearing masks with a message…

  3. Nice blog Christine and a balanced approach also. I appreciate it. Though I am not qualified to comprehend completely the I’ll effects of running in polluted air. Your body doesn’t feel good if air is not pure. I believe it’s like eating vegetables – it has pesticides but it’s benefits outweigh the harmful effects of pesticides. So not running is not an option for me.

    Om prakash pandey
  4. This is absurd. Yes, there is a serious air quality issue, but, it is not the solution. IMA might advise us all to carry oxygen cylinders tomorrow till the air quality is better or maybe ask us not to breathe till then. It is not as if the authorities are incapable of improving things, but, they prefer to indulge in flimsy measures.

    Praveen Gupta

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