Last week, we experienced some of the worst air quality in New York history. As a board member, we often make decisions on whether to run or not based on weather. Is it too hot? too cold? What storm is heading towards us that will impact the weekly runs? From there, we will cancel runs based on those patterns, however, we have never had to call a run based on air alone.
Air is very important to everyone, especially runners, who are pumping it through their lungs when running outdoors. On Tuesday night, as I was exiting the Varsity Sports Awards dinner for my school district, I began to smell smoke and said to one of the parents that it smelled like a house was burning. She reminded me of the wildfires in Quebec.
I had completely forgot about that! Wednesday morning, the air seemed a bit clearer, but as the day progressed, we were engulfed by a yellow sky and a dark Sun. At school pick-up, Tim wore a mask outdoors and brought one along for Madeline as well. She had one in her book bag and explained that the air in the hallways was so bad that her teacher recommended that the class wear masks if they had one. The following morning, all of us left the house with masks and we instructed the kids to use them in school if they felt that they needed it.
According to the New York Times, the air quality in our area reached 465, micrograms per cubic meter well beyond the safe levels of below 35. We were advised to mask-up, this time to protect our lungs from particles that could cause problems later. I consulted my firefighter husband, who will walk into burning buildings. He explained that when his team goes into a fire they have masks providing them oxygen, so they are protected and able to breathe. We do not have these masks hanging around, but Tim further explained that the ash was traveling in the air and even the average person would feel the effects, let alone children and those who are compromised.
I felt that this was a good time to go over running safety when it comes to air quality:
- If the air quality is below 35 micrograms per cubic meter it is considered safe to run outside
- If it is above that amount, you can exercise outside, but it is advised to be indoors
- Anything above 200 micrograms per cubic meter, it might not be safe to indoors, unless you are in a place that has air purifiers.
These are just suggestions; however, everyone should exercise caution if the air quality levels reach those higher limits.