Are you part of the Delhi murder-thon? – How a marathon including the Airtel one, is a fatal blow to your lungs

In Air Pollution by Nirvana

We are coming up on the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in the third week of October. Delhi’s AQI in the morning time between 7 and 10AM has been hovering right around 250-350 ug/m^3.

This number is approximately 20 times the WHO’s air quality guideline!

Obviously running is healthy, however, running in poor quality air, can’t be good. So how bad is it?

Let’s put a few numbers to it and get a better idea.

  • Let’s assume PM2.5 will be around 350ug/m^3 throughout the morning.
  • It is pretty standard to breathe around 150 litres/minute when doing sports, equivalent to around 0.15m^3/min.
  • If it takes you 2 hours to finish the marathon, you will have breathed in 6,300ug of PM2.5, or 6.3mg! Which, otherwise, you would have inhaled in 40 hours.
  • 6.3mg is a whole lot of PM2.5!! It is equivalent to smoking almost 35 cigarettes in 2 hrs!.

    The volume of air you breathe during 24 hours of rest is actually substantially lower than what you will breathe during the 2 hours of exercise in a half marathon.

    Also, a wide range of heavy metals, including arsenic, are found in the roadside air. Arsenic is famous for use as a poison since Roman times, (some say it was used to kill Napoleon) and we now breathe it in every day.

    So, other than breathing in a dangerous level of arsenic, a whole blend of heavy metals and a few PM2.5 nano monsters, running the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is a great way to stay fit and healthy.

    My advice: if you’re going to be part of any sporting event, don’t do it in Delhi or frankly any large city in India. And if you must, make sure the air quality is good and you are wearing an air-mask that completely covers your mouth & nose, fits tightly and has a low breathing resistance. A specialized for sports mask is the idMask2. It has low resistance due to the large surface area of the electrostatic filter.

    However, the fundamental rule of physics is filtration = resistance and you expect a 30%+ drop in performance.

    Trust me, I paid the price for running in Delhi and it took me down for 11 months. Also, my lungs will never be the same again!!