Community Everyone said don’t run in the smoke. I did anyway.

    Everyone said don’t run in the smoke. I did anyway.


    I won’t be the first person to point out that runners are a little bit nuts. We run in the cold. We run in the heat. We run when we’re injured. We run when we shouldn’t, often. It’s part of what makes us, us. You don’t just set out and become a runner by being a fair-weather participant. That kind of commitment rarely, if ever, sees a Personal Best. But how often do we run when it’s counterproductive? I was reminded of that yesterday, when I ran in the smoke after my team workout was cancelled and showed up and my kid’s aftercare with watering red eyes.

    My daughter had called me from school and asked me not to run. And my training partner backed out and sports activities were cancelled at school. But, after a long day of work, I needed a run. That pull of going for a run weighted against playing it safe is a decision that we all have to face. On the iRun Facebook channel, readers are mixed about their decisions. Many of our runners opted to go in the morning, before the air conditions got worse. And one great runner offered up this link,, which is a fantastic resource and I recommend all of us use.

    But the truth is: even with that website, I probably would’ve run anyways. And I have a Peloton. It’s certainly not bragging and I think it’s more embarrassing, more stupid, than anything to be proud of. I think the reason why I’m writing this is to try and understand my own psyche. And perhaps understand yours. What is it that makes us run? What makes us, after suffering in a race, sign up for another one? Is it an addiction? A thrill? A mixture of pleasure and pain that’s ingrained in our consciousness?

    I don’t know.

    I just know that I was planning on skipping my run and instead I went out for a walk around Toronto and saw lots of people running and that made my mind up for me: if they get to do it, so do I. That picture up top was taken by my aunt in New York. Looks like the apocalypse. How long will it last? And is this just a precursor of what’s to come? No doubt our impact on the environment is making things worse and runners—throwing their cups during races, buying loads of shoes, contributing to the overall consumption of crap—could do more to help our planet, which clearly is crying out for help.

    What do you think is the best course of action? And what are people saying in Calgary, in Alberta, in Quebec, where things are worse than they are here in Toronto? Let me know and let’s continue the conversation. As runners, we’re a very specific sub-group and it’s important we share our best information. We all hear from the experts: don’t run outside.

    Will we listen? I’m not sure.


    1. I ran outdoors on the two worst days of smoke this past week. I run in a park, lots of trees. No noticable aftereffects. Sanding my deck last month was most likely worse for me. My coach has asthma and put new filters in the air cleaning mechanical thing in the house. Do what feels best, be happy.

    2. I was thinking about that, re: sanding your deck. And Im sure running behind garbage trucks and through construction and everything else isn’t always what’s best.

    3. No judgement Ben. The 6-year-ago version of me would have run as well. We all run for different reasons I think. And it’s the compelling nature of ‘why’, and the degree to which that compulsion drives our commitment (and overrides common sense) that drives folks to run in smokey conditions like you encountered. 🙂

      Or at least it used to for me. I’m turning 60 this year and the aging process has begun to ‘blunt’ that edge somewhat. So – I didn’t run this week. I did Peloton though.

      I do still run, though not as often. Cross-training more these days, which I do enjoy – but it’s not quite the same as running is it?

      I admire your persistence, kinda miss it to be honest.

      Enjoy those hard-earned miles – stay safe.

    4. I think we’ve all run in situations that we considered to be somewhat unsafe; fresh freezing rain where the traction was iffy at best, as a woman running in the dark on a quiet street and I certainly considered running on a local trail this past week where I felt the air quality may have been a bit better than in the city but I think what got me is the particles were everywhere. It’s not similar at all to running behind a garbage truck as one reader put it. It’s like running with a campfire burning in your face. If you’ve ever caught a close whiff of burning wood and coughed then you can imagine what I was envisioning when I was contemplating getting out there. Good or bad, running becomes an impulse, a natural antidepressant to us. But I think we must look inward at times to see why it seems so difficult for some to just be ok missing a day. I think there’s something deeper going on there. A compulsion. A need for control. Who knows? For the most part it serves us well.

    5. These are really great comments and I appreciate every one. The idea is that iRun can be a forum for us all to discuss our motivations and what we get out of the sport, what we even want. If ever anyone wants to voice their opinions or write something similar, by all means, for runners, my door is open all the time.

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