Aman Dhall, 34, has been undergoing a rigorous training for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) for the past five weeks: running 5 to 16 km and doing strength and conditioning exercises like push-ups and jump squats on alternative days. But then Dhall, who heads corporate communications at a private company in Gurgaon, happened to drive to Delhi on November 8 – that was the day the air quality index touched a horrifying 1,000 in the capital — and was shocked to see the dark blanket of pollution enveloping the city.
“The city was like a dust bowl. I could feel the toxic air even while sitting in my car. It was the worst I have experienced in my lifetime. I have never felt such uneasiness while breathing,” recalls Dhall, who has taken part in two half-marathons, including the Delhi event in 2015, and has a personal best of 2 hours 20 minutes. As he gasped in the smog, he had second thoughts about taking part in the half-marathon next Sunday.
“It won’t be easy to run in these conditions. Even a mask won’t be able to protect participants running this half-marathon,” he says. “I feel running in such polluted conditions will be a huge risk to my health.” “First-time participants in ADHM will be excited about running this route so they might ignore the pollution. However, runners with some years of experience may drop out of this event, taking into consideration the impact of pollution on their health post the run,” says Dhall. – Hiral Thanawala
We are concerned about pollution but the Delhi event is an opportunity to achieve our personal best: Ankush Mendiratta
Along with others in Runbugs, a running group I founded in Gurgaon, I started training for the ADHM over four months back. It will be very disappointing for us to pull out of the event now. For many runners in my group, the Delhi event is an opportunity to achieve our personal best as the route provides a flat and easy terrain, which is not the case with some marathons in other cities.
As a pacer at the event, I will be leading a huge group of people who will run the course within two and a half hours. What this means is that I have to motivate those who are falling behind and keep their spirits up. I find this role very inspiring even though it means sacrificing my own personal best which is likely to be less than 2.30. In fact, the largest number of marathoners achieve this speed, while the two-hour slot is for those who are very fit, and the three-hour period is for under-performers. I can’t let down all those who are depending on me to help them do their best.
Having said this, I would like to add that all my friends and members of our running group are very concerned about the high level of pollution in Delhi and Gurgaon and we haven’t been going out on our training runs over the last week. Some of us are training indoors — on treadmills in gyms with air purifiers on. We are also meeting up in small groups and doing stretching exercises at home to keep the morale high. — As told to Ishani Duttagupta