Beijing Marathon Tiananmen

Airpocalyptic Running – Beijing Marathon 2014

It’s a beautiful sunny day again, the concentration of airborne pollutants makes for an air quality index (AQI) coming in at only around 100… 25 is already considered the upper limit for health concerns, but for Beijing, 100 is very nice.

The weekend before last, strong wind had come through, and it had all been even better.

Baidu's weather info...
Baidu’s weather info…

Last weekend, the day of the Beijing Marathon, however, the AQI was around 400.

Reason for an officially-issued “orange alert” which has one thinking that it must be based on the look the sky then gets.

How much more it would take for a red alert to be issued? Probably blood in the streets because people keeled over. (“London fog” had managed to get there.)

If you’ve been wondering why the promised part 3 of my Suunto Ambit3 review (Part 1, Part 2) hasn’t been coming, here’s one of the reasons. There just hadn’t been enough good weather (or mainly, “weather”) to even want to go out of the room, let alone talk about running. (And it doesn’t help that the USB on my Vaio notebook broke.)

For the marathon, though, I donned my face mask and plunged into the gloom and dust…

After all, the registration procedure had already been interesting enough.

Step 1: Express your interest and pick the right answers to questions such as:

  • How to choose breakfast on the day of the event?
  • How to position yourself before the pistol firing?
  • When you are about to reach the finish line, you should…

The questions, but especially the choices of possible answers, sounded a lot like the infamous Chinese driver’s license exam questions. For example, one of the choices for the last question was “… speed up as much as possible” or something like that (I can’t remember since it was – obviously? ;) – the wrong answer.)

Step 2: Be told (or actually, not – I never got any info on that) it’s time to submit the payment so that you’re actually in. I had wondered a little about that when I checked a bit too early, and then actually paid the morning after the official payment period ended, but that wasn’t a problem.

Step 3: Wonder if the marathon is even going to take place because no updated info on the race course for the current year is being published, no info on how, where and when to pick up the bib numbers is online even two weeks before the race. (Only to find that actually, it is online on the Chinese version of the site, but only following one link there, not another; an English version was online just about a week before the event.)

Step 4: Pick up the bib number, find that the Marathon Expo is ridiculously small but the number pick-up extraordinarily well-organized.

Beijing Marathon Bib Number Pickup
Beijing Marathon Bib Number Pickup

Step 5: Get up early enough on the day of the event, check the air quality index and wonder if you should even go outside. Run. (Or don’t.)

See for yourself what it all looked like:

What shall I say?

As the at-home-maker, sometimes it’s necessary to delve into such seriously messed-up situations, too.

It was a great reminder, certainly, of how some aspects of the world as it is don’t require that we make ourselves at home with how these things are, so much as that we work to change them.

Running is great for health and well-being, a great way of being outside, and being outside is great for health and well-being, making running outside even better – and then, being outside running is also one of the best ways of making oneself at home in a place and living better without greater consumption and (other) ecological impact.

Win-win. #ecohappy

Not quite so when you are in a situation where being outside is outright dangerous to your health, though. You can be oblivious to it (and most people here didn’t even wear facemasks), but that isn’t going to change the impact.

Beijing Marathon Tiananmen
Beijing Marathon, Start past Tiananmen Gate

Of course, a whole other side to the issue is how a pollution like that in Beijing’s air at least makes it obvious that we are having an impact that is affecting us right back. In more “developed” places, lots of things have greatly improved – and I’m never more grateful for central European air and water quality than when I come back from China – but it is also hiding away all too much of the impact of high-consumption lifestyles.

All too often, we have been ending up worrying about environmental awareness and its symbolically relevant aspects, then.

It becomes “Save the whales, save the snails…” – but in many regards, there, George Carlin was an idiot.

We still need to get around to truly better living, though. Not just in material ways, not just in “eco” ones, but at home in their connections, living richer lives because we are living better for ourselves and the world.

I had been fighting a bout of depression, this Beijing marathon was not exactly an uplifting experience – but it helps drive home the point:

Want to live richer? Then make yourself – and let me help you make yourself – at home in this world, start living truly, ‘multiply’ better.

... and then, if we also work collectively, we can avoid having our lungs start to look like the face mask on the right (which is the one I used during the marathon; the one on the left is a new one, for comparison)
… and then, if we also work collectively, we can avoid having our lungs start to look like the face mask on the right (which is the one I used during the marathon; the one on the left is a new one, for comparison)

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