Tens of thousands of people took part in the 34th Beijing International Marathon yesterday, despite warnings that the city's notorious air pollution had reached "hazardous" levels and it would be wise to avoid exertion. Many runners were spotted wearing face masks or even gas masks, and organizers provided 140,000 sponges at supply stations so runners could wipe residue from the filthy air off their skin, reports CNN. Even with a face mask, British runner Chas Pope had to pull out 6 miles in, saying he looked at the state of his mask and "decided enough was enough," the BBC reports.
The US Embassy in the city—which monitors air quality despite the Chinese government's objections—says the level of fine particulate matter, which can embed itself deep in the lungs, reached 400 micrograms per cubic meter yesterday, 16 times the World Health Organization's recommended daily maximum. Many top international runners decided to sit this one out, though Ethiopian runners won both the men's and women's races, reports the AP. Girmay Birhanu Gebru won the men's race in 2:02:57 and Fatuma Sado Dergo won the women's in 2:30:03. Besides sponges, there were many more portable toilets along the route this year to discourage runners from relieving themselves against the walls of the Forbidden City as in years past, wantchinatimes.com reports. (Read more Beijing smog stories.)