— John Bussey (@johncbussey) October 19, 2014
The 34th Beijing International Marathon went on as scheduled Sunday despite heavy smog polluting the city as competitors raced to the finish line wearing face masks and sponges.
About 30,000 people were expected to take part in the 26-mile marathon, which started at Tiananmen Square and ended at the Chinese capital’s Olympic Park, the Associated Press reported.
Estimates said that pollution soared above the maximum recommended World Health Organization levels.
The U.S. Embassy, which tracks the Beijing air from a monitoring station on its roof, said the air was hazardous showing a reading of 344 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 particulate matter.
The World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms within a 24-hour period a safe level.
The organizing committee made 140,000 sponges available at supply stations along the runners’ trail so they could “clean their skin that is exposed to the air,” the Beijing News told the AP.