The ADHM – Pollution Fears, and Beyond

I choose to run in polluted air, but should you?


ADHM or some other outdoor event? You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the pollution. But you can control whether you participate in bad weather or low pollution.

In tropical India, cool weather that is fun for racing fast in marathons or triathlons is also the kind of weather that tends to have air pollution levels that are high. And if we are talking “New Delhi”, the situation is way worse than for Mumbai or Chennai.

Kolkata, the City of Joy, …erm… not when it comes to pollution!

Air Pollution Measures in Central New Delhi

The 2 things under your control

It is probably a fair assumption that you cannot control what the level of pollution will be in a city on a given day. But if you are organizing an outdoor event you can decide on which date that event is held, especially if you are looking for participants from other parts of the world.

And if you happen to be an aspiring participant, you can decide, given an event date, if you ought to participate, given the level of outdoor pollution and weather in that location on that date.

Pollution Fears During Indian Races

Don’t blame the organizers

With the media scares around the ADHM-2016 and ADHM-2017, the ensuing reactions from the title sponsors and race organizers, and the dip in participation (strong in 2016, limited in 2017), it made sense to me that I think about how to tackle this tension between weather and pollution.

The Paper

You can access the paper I published titled “Pollution and Weather Trade-offs for Endurance Events” that uses the case of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) to demonstrate how you could approach the topic in an objective, data-driven manner. I think it’s a pretty cool paper, and you may enjoy reading it.

The Tool

Putting my engineering hat on, using that research, I decided to provide you with a simple but insightful tool to help you with decision making if you are considering participating in any event in Delhi (or Gurgaon/Noida) in the next year (or even beyond, if things continue to stay the same or get worse). The page to it is here.


Before I give you a few pointers on how to use it, let us get a few things straight about outdoor events in New Delhi or Gurgaon. Some of these pointers are driven by what I have observed about the data for New Delhi when it comes to weather, and pollution, and the some from the attitudes and actions of my loved ones there. Many of the other pointers are plain common sense. Here goes:

  • Neither Airtel, the title sponsor, nor Procam, the event organizer, creates the pollution that is destroying New Delhi and its environs every day
  • If anything, Airtel and Procam are attempting to raise the bar when it comes to public health and the awareness that prevention is a hell of a lot cheaper than cure
  • The ADHM is a private non-compulsory event for which you pay a ticket-price to participate in
  • So, there is no compulsion for you to buy a ticket to participate
  • Having bought a ticket, there is no compulsion for you to participate
  • If you decided to buy a ticket to the race and then realized that the weather or the pollution was going to be a bummer, that is your fault, and only your fault
  • Before going to Thailand on a cheap holiday deal in September, you will have checked that it is one of the wettest months of the year; like weather patterns, the pollution pattern in Delhi has not really changed – so don’t pretend to be surprised
  • So, before deciding to fly to Delhi to race there on just about any day of the year, you ought to be aware that, even on a good day, the density of air pollutants is at levels that most developed countries would consider dangerous for your health

I would just like to add that, for someone who spends most of his life away from polluted New Delhi, I have very few inhibitions about participating in events there on any day of the year. Not because I do not worry about the impact of pollution, but because I know I follow a host of lifestyle and exercise protocols that reduce the risk for me considerably.

If you decide to do things in New Delhi, do it with careful thought and stop bickering about the pollution – that’s noise pollution! If you want to make a change, make a change to your lifestyle, modes of transport and high consumption of animal products. Don’t create more pollution!

Go to the Tool

To use my handy tool for New Delhi pollution-weather trade-offs, check this page out.

If you have friends who might be interested in this topic, perhaps because they are participating in an event in New Delhi or simply going there on holiday or for a wedding, do share this article with them.



Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


  1. […] Neither your government nor you can control the weather but your government has quite a lot of control over the environmental pollution that affects everyone. You then get to balance the costs and benefits of being outdoors based on your needs and the weather and pollution. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.