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Breathing not so easy

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney  March 4, 2010 08:40 AM

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Going the distanceGlobe correspondent Elizabeth Cooney is writing about the Boston Marathon in the series "Going the Distance," which appears in the Globe's G Health section. She's also training for it, and hopes you'll check in with her along the way.

Did you know marathon runners out on the course for three hours breathe in the same amount of air as a sedentary person inhales over two days?

That makes it easier to understand why air pollution might affect runners even on days when pollutants don't exceed national standards, almost always the case for marathons held on weekends or holidays. A new study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise links one form of pollution to slower times, but only for women.

Linsey Marr from Virginia Tech and Matthew Ely from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick examined the effect of various air pollutants on lung function during seven marathons, including Boston, over eight to 28 years. They tracked the top three male and female finishers, comparing their times to course records and taking into account air pollutants and temperature on race day.

The researchers found that when there were higher levels of particles in the air, women's finishing times were slower. Men's times did not change significantly and other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, were not linked to changes in performance.

Women might be more susceptible to particles in the air because their airways are smaller than men's, the researchers suggested.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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