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35,000 enthusiasts brave Delhi’s ‘poor’ air to run half-marathon

But, the runners — many of whom were in masks and wore portable air-purifiers — felt the effect of pollution.

delhi Updated: Nov 20, 2017 00:03 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times
Delhi,delhi crime,half-marathon
The runners — many of whom were in masks and wore portable air-purifiers — felt the effect of pollution. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Around 35,000 enthusiasts gathered at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for Delhi’s annual half marathon on Sunday, braving the city’s poor air quality and ignoring Indian Medical Association’s plea to Delhi High Court to call off the run because the air was hazardous.

The weather on Sunday, however, improved, with the Air Quality Index dipping to 298. The Central Pollution Control Boards data showed PM2.5 levels at 99 micrograms per cubic metre and PM 10 at 153 micrograms per cubic metre at Lodhi Road when the marathon began.

“The pollution levels are very high and we advise our patients not to run during this time as it opens up the lungs and allows people to breathe in more polluted air. I am here to support the spirit of Delhi, but I will walk the distance with a mask on,” said Peter Paul De Groote, general director, Doctors Without Borders, India.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had earlier asked the organiser of to postpone the marathon due to the high levels of pollution. “Absolutely no marathon should be held when the Air Quality Index is above 150,” KK Agarwal, president of IMA said.

But, the runners — many of whom were in masks and wore portable air-purifiers — felt the effect of pollution.

“I have a sore throat and itchy eyes. In fact, I could feel the effects of air pollution as soon as I landed in Delhi. So, I decided to buy a mask and wear goggles during the run. Running a marathon makes me feel liberated, but with a mask on I constantly kept feeling caged and this was not my best performance,” said Rohit Mohan, 30, who has been participating in half marathons for the last 12 years. He flew in from Bangalore on Saturday after the high court gave a green signal to the city’s half marathon.

Micheal Koch, an American citizen who has been living in India for the last 18 months, said that the air pollution severely affected his run. “In India, the climate is hot, but the winters are good for a run. But, in Delhi, as soon as the temperatures dip, the pollution shoots up and makes it impossible to step out. For the last two weeks, I could not train at all,” he said. Mark, who goes by one name, had come to India from Netherlands to run with his son who is working in a city NGO. He said his stamina was less and he had sore throat and chest pain too.

Devika Bakshi, managing director of jewellery brand Pandora, was sceptical about joining the marathon. “Till last night, I was worried about what I would do. I had not trained outdoors for the last two weeks when the pollution levels were extremely high. However, after reaching the venue, there was so much energy in the crowd that I decided not to think about the pollution,” she said. The only fleeting thought she had was when she crossed the Rashtrapati Bhawan and could not see it clearly through the haze.

Some enthusiasts decided to skip the event altogether.

It would have been Reeti Sahai’s seventh marathon and she had trained for it till the haze settled in on the city. “For me, smog does not really matter, I remember running the marathon last year also when the pollution levels were high. But this year, during the last two weeks, I got a sore throat and had difficulty breathing. My eyes were itchy too. That’s when I thought I shouldn’t really be running in this weather,” she said.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 00:02 IST