Air Quality Awareness Week—Runners Wanted

About the author: Andrea Drinkard is Web Content Coordinator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation

I’m a runner. I wasn’t always a runner. But, after my first race this spring, I had to admit it. Running may have been an easy sport to pick up when the first marathon was run in Greece, but today there are many more considerations.

First, what shoes do I get? Are they light and supportive? Will they match my clothes? Sorry, I had to throw it in there.

Then you have to decide where to run. I love that I live so close to the city, but that also means I’m surrounded by busy roads and traffic. On my first run at my new house, I decided to just explore the neighborhood. After a mile, I noticed that it wasn’t as easy as it used to be.

Was I out of shape? Maybe it was just a bad day. After a couple more bad runs, it dawned on me. Maybe it was running next to a busy road.

Running near busy roads exposes you to higher levels of air pollutants. And breathing dirty air makes it harder to do just about everything. So, I made a few changes. I looked for routes that were in or near a park or on back roads. I even woke up earlier so I could beat the traffic.

But it’s not just busy roads that can affect air quality. Air pollution comes from many other sources. And it changes every day, so just like I check the weather, I started checking the Air Quality Index. For me, poor air quality days don’t mean skip the run, they just mean take it easy, slow the pace or cut the distance.

EPA uses a color-coded guide: green means the air quality is good, red means it’s unhealthy for everyone to breathe. You can check it on the Internet, sign up for daily emails, or check out your local weather report.

Cities across the country also have Air Quality Action Days. These days tell you when you should reduce your contribution to pollution. One of he easiest ways to do that is to leave the car at home. You can take public transportation or carpool.

Poor air quality can happen year-round, so no matter when you’re outside, check the AQI.

April 27 – May 1 is Air Quality Awareness Week.

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