Ethiopia’s Gebru Wins Beijing Marathon Amid ‘Hazardous’ Smog

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Girmay Birhanu Gebru of Ethiopia won the Beijing Marathon as about 30,000 runners from 55 countries completed after a warning of hazardous haze engulfing the city.

Gebru completed the race in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 42 seconds, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today. The organization committee of the race warned marathoners of heavy smog on its official Weibo feed last night. The Air Quality Index in the city central area is at “severely polluted levels” of around 225 to 245 today, with the gauge at more than 400 in some areas, according to Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. The U.S. Embassy said on its website air quality is “hazardous” today.

“I was basically a vacuum cleaner,” William Liu, a 30-year-old banker, said after completing the full marathon in five hours. He said he could’ve run faster if the smog hadn’t given him a dry, itchy throat and stuffy nose partway through.

The heavy smog compounds Beijing’s task to improve air quality ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum next month when leaders gather for an annual summit. The city has ordered some cars to stay off the roads, construction to halt, and offices and public schools to shut down during the summit at which U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet.

A runner from Kenya who led the race in the first 20 kilometers quit midway through, according to official China National Radio.

Competitor A1659

“The air quality is too poor,” according to a posting by Yuan Hong, an actor, on his verified Weibo feed today. “Competitor A1659 has decided to quit.”

Yuan also posted a picture of himself with a number tag and a screen shot showing “hazardous” level of pollution - PM-2.5 particle level reaching 373 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization recommends exposures of no greater than 25 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour period.

Yuan’s post was reposted more than 600 times in three hours. “Be persistent, do not breathe,” said the official People’s Daily through its Weibo feed, playing a pun in Chinese.

— With assistance by Xiaoqing Pi

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