Long-distance runner's sad lot: a bad air day

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-10-25 07:39:03

Normally, autumn is the best season in the capital. Not only because of the color of the leaves is it dubbed golden autumn. But nature is unpredictable. The absence of wind coupled with the persistence of fog wreaks havoc with the city's weather, or, as gallows humor would have it, turns the city into a misty-colored poetic mood with low visibility.

Beijing is as beautiful as the best setting in the world for running a marathon if it takes place straight after a night of strong wind. But being able to pick such a day is a cat-and-mouse game, and an event with the organizational complexity of a marathon cannot afford such a game. So ultimately the organizers are at the mercy of the elements.

While the chorus of lamentation surfaced online, some turned on the critics for playing armchair analysts. The participants were bound by all kinds of constraints as well, they said, and could not just decide to stay away. Many had prepared for a year or more, and some had obligations to fulfill. I have a friend whose participation was sponsored by advertisers, so in a sense he had no choice. Next time he should have it in the contract that he be given the right to opt out on the grounds of air pollution.

Anyway, one mark of progress is transparency - and here I am obviously not talking about the air. The public was given updated information on the level of pollution, and that allows them to make a better-informed choice on whether they should run. Still, peer pressure could play a role here. One Chinese university has reportedly registered 6,000 participants for a marathon and anyone dropping out would be likely to lose face in front of schoolmates. But the entrants are all adults, so they ought to be able to take responsibility for themselves.

The harshest criticism relates to the purpose of sports. A marathon race, many critics argue, is to promote physical fitness through exercise, and if an event will obviously do more harm than good to the health of the participants, it subverts the ultimate goal.

Editor's Picks
Hot words

Most Popular