I think i can provide some insight, for those who are interested, into the effect pollution has on runners performance in Beijing. I have been living and studying in Beijing since July 9th, and i will leave Beijing on the 21st of August. I am a D1 track athlete in the United States and have been running everyday in Beijing since i arrived. Without a doubt the smog and pollution in Beijing has an impact on a runners performace.
Beijing has basically two kinds of weather in July and August. The first type of weather is sunny and humid, and the second type is smoggy and polluted. Each type usually lasts for 3-6 days at a time. Without a doubt there has been more smoggy days than sunny days since i have been here. The sun will come out usually after it rains. The rain is usually induced by the government seeding the clouds.
Running on the sunny days is just like running in the sun anywhere else: breathing is fine, no cough, etc. The problem is the majority of the days in Beijing are characterized by thick smog. My first week of running, and i am doing about 50 miles per week, the weather did not get to me. I even started to think that people had exaggerated the effect smog would have on an athlete.
However, after my second week of running i developed a cough and some junk in my chest. Now, i spend most of my day clearing my throat. I have also noticed a weird substance that blankets my toungue and mouth while i am runnning and after i am done. It basically numbs you’re whole mouth and tastes bad. You’re lips also get effected my the same “substance” and start to feel pruned and soggy, sort of like the feeling you get when you eat a ton of buttered popcorn.
The whole experience has been strange. I would definately not reccomend running in Beijing longer than a week. I ran for 90 minutes yesterday and it was the worst i have felt since i have been here. The pollution will definately effect athletes performance and health. I have considered not running until i get back in the states, but we will see.