Canadian wildfires put Bucks runners in an airy situation

The Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s Tuesday night time-trial group braved the smoke from wildfires in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec to complete its weekly 4-mile run. (Photo by Joe Boyce)

       Welcome to the future.

       We have received a sample of what it’s going to look like and, frankly, it appears to be a bit hazy.

       At least that was the picture which presented itself this past week when the AQI (air quality index) in these parts skyrocketed into the danger zone.

       Everyone who ventured outside felt it in their eyes, nose and mouth – all courtesy of the out-of-control wildfires in Canada which sent clouds of smoke billowing into the United States.

       And if you happened to be bold enough like, say, the Bucks County Roadrunners Club members who chose to run or bike on Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, the situation was even more daunting.

       They were inhaling the fumes at a much higher rate than John Q. Public and no doubt their lungs were sending out distress signals.

       Things got really tough on Wednesday night when some of the BCRR’s bravest souls hopped on their two-wheelers and pedaled into the murky mess with the AQI well into triple digits.

       “I had itchy eyes, dry mouth and a slight headache,” said Joe Boyce of his 50-mile trek. “The sky looked like an Orange Creamcicle had melted into the sky. Looking back, I probably should have skipped the ride. I switched a planned Thursday ride to Friday when the air was much better.”

       Whether or not you believe in climate change is a matter of personal choice but there’s no denying the fact the planet is heating up and episodes like the one we just endured are more likely to come along more frequently in the years ahead.

       According to the website Marathon Handbook, there are six levels of AQI and this past Wednesday saw the number in Bucks County get close to the highest. Meanwhile, in New York City, the pollution made it so bad the Big Apple received the ignominious title of worst urban air in the world.

       Here are the colors and numbers for the half-dozen classifications:

       >Green, good. 0-50. What you want for the day of your marathon.

       >Yellow, moderate. 51-100. Still acceptable with the possible exception of those with respiratory issues.

       >Orange, border-line unhealthy. 101-150. If you have asthma, lung or heart problems, it’s best to exercise indoors. An air purifier wouldn’t hurt.

       >Red, unhealthy for everyone. 151-200. Time to take a few days off, no matter how fit you are.

       >Purple, very unhealthy. 201-300. Experts say prolonged exposure can lead to serious health problems.

       >Maroon, hazardous, 301-500. Stay indoors as much as possible. Work/school remote if you can. Keep the TV and radio on as well as check your computer for updates.

       If the fires in Nova Scotia and Quebec continue to be a problem and the winds start blowing back in this direction, you might want to break out one of those N95 facemasks left over from the COVID pandemic. These are effective against those nasty particles floating through the air.

       Marathon Handbook says attempting to run outside in these trying conditions can be tricky.

       When the AQI gets into the high numbers, the risks of damage from air pollutants may outweigh the benefits of daily exercise.

       One suggested option is the use of a treadmill. Although some people aren’t crazy about this contraption, it does have a few positives, such as being able to watch a TV show or keep an eye on young kids.

       If you don’t own a treadmill, you can always find one at a local gym. Then you can crank out a few miles while chatting with a fellow runner one machine over.

       In the big picture, many runners in Bucks County and the surrounding Delaware Valley are exposed to air-borne pollution in some form anyway.

       Should you be running on the shoulder of a road, you’re breathing in automobile exhaust.

       Solution: Avoid running at high-volume traffic times, such as morning and afternoon rush hours. Stay off roads which are busy all the time. Look for off-road venues, such as city, county, state parks.

       In other words, where there’s smoke, there’s trouble. Keep an eye on air conditions. Avoid trouble situations. Your lungs will thank you.

       >Department of Corrections:

        In last week’s column we reported that New Britain’s Gert Freas had run a total of 142 miles in a 24-hour ultramarathon endurance race.

       Later, we learned the actual total was 122 miles. Even that total is beyond amazing. Congratulations on that great performance.

       >Race calendar


        Dairy Air 5K/10K/Half-Marathon, 8:30 a.m., Doylestown. Contact


        BCRR Break-Fast 5K/10K, 8:30 a.m., Doylestown. Contact


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About Wayne Fish 2409 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.