Should we run in polluted cities?

It is SO hot and humid in Delhi (where I live) that it’s difficult to imagine the winter ever coming.

Our summer has been long and brutal and we still have at least a month to go before the weather will start cooling down.

Actually, more than a month.

Today it’s Friday 13 September (who’s superstitious, then?!). Conventional wisdom here in north India has it that the weather only starts cooling down after Diwali – which is on the 27 October. So, yes, we have weeks more of this horrid, torrid weather.

My weather widget showed 88% humidity this morning, whilst a friend in neighbouring Gurgaon said she ran in 90% humidity.

But once the much-longed-for cooler weather comes, we Delhites get immediately plunged into a different scenario, for the winters bring us horrific pollution.

Cue this article in my morning paper. Here you go:

At least our local government is meeting to discuss this annual horrific air quality. That’s a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether this winter will be any different from previous winters.

Every year we go through the same horrors.

Year after wretched year, we are all urged not to light firecrackers for Diwali.

But we all do.

And then we wake up to pollution so disgusting, so dangerous, so vile that we feature in the front pages of the world’s press.

This was the Hindustan Times the day after Diwali last year:

It’s not just the Diwali crackers, of course, that pollute our air, but for me this annual orgy of selfish self-harming is the most terrifying, because it implies that people, by and large, just don’t care.

They will happily crib about the government not doing anything, but they’ll promptly go pollute the air themselves.

Which brings me back to the question raised in the tile of this blog post. Because this is after all, my running blog, as opposed to my general Delhi blog.

So, back to the question: should we run in polluted cities?

This is an annual debate, which I’m torn about, to be honest.

As long as we all live in this polluted city, we are condemned to breathe the toxic air, whether we are marathon runners or couch potatoes.

We can’t all stay indoors with air purifiers for months on end.

We go out, we go to work, we go shopping. We walk the dog. We go to all the jolly weddings that take place in the winter, happily standing around on lawns, watching the festivities. You never see people at weddings wearing face masks, now, do you? And no-one ever cancelled a Big fat Indian Wedding because of the pollution, did they?

But runners always seen to come in for short shrift, simply because I guess we’re an easy target.

We CHOOSE to exercise in the mucky air -> therefore we are stupid -> therefore they should cancel running events (every year, this issue arises).

I am very concerned about the pollution, obviously.

And yet I continue to run in the Delhi winters.

I have masks, which I use on especially foul days.

I vary my timings and run in the middle of the day, to avoid the worst of the early morning pollution..

I only run in my local biodiversity park, where we have lots of tree cover.

All of these are but temporary measures, I acknowledge.

Fast forward to this Sunday, 15 September, & to an event (below) when I will be running with a mask, alongside the amazing folk from Nirvana Being, a Delhi-based company that wants to raise awareness of air pollution and the advantages of using masks.

For all my Delhi NCR friends, please treat this as an invitation to come and join us, to raise awareness about air pollution.

We all need to be fully informed, so we can make a decision as to whether we #daretorun.

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