As I’ve mentioned before, pollution is something I never look forward to in Beijing. It was bad in 2005 when I was there in the summer, and it had become noticeably worse by the time I returned in late 2010. Most people – including local Beijingers – are well aware of just how bad the pollution is these days. This wasn’t always true. In 2005, anytime you brought up the pollution, e.g. “the pollution’s no good” (wuran bu hao) people would just say “the weather’s no good” (tianqi bu hao). As a foreigner who was not used to that level of pollution it felt like local Beijingers were in obvious denial.
I saw via the beijinger today that Mark Zuckerberg is in Beijing and posted on Facebook that he ran through Tiananmen square down to the Temple of Heaven park at a time when the pollution level was hazardous at 337. This post from the beijinger (and numerous comments on Mark’s FB wall) reminded me of two things: first, how I myself have run that route (more or less) as part of a running competition and, more grimly, how one can possibly run in that kind of pollution when it obviously is dangerous and puts a damper on distance running in general. I’ll discuss the race in this post because I think it’s a unique experience, and in a later post I’ll talk about my own experiences running in Beijing’s notorious pollution.*