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Photograph: Ivan Tsaregorodtsev on Unsplash

How to cope with Sydney's smoke haze – especially if you're exercising or doing the Sydney Marathon this weekend

Get up to speed on all the precautions you need to take

Lisa Hamilton
Written by
Lisa Hamilton

If you’ve stepped outside in Sydney this week you would have noticed a thick blanket of smoke haze covering Sydney. While this has made for tough driving conditions and hazardous air quality, it's been a necessary step for the NSW Rural Fire Services, who have been backburning to prepare for bushfire season.

While many of the larger hazard reduction burns across Sydney have been completed, there are still some smaller sites which will be backburnt over the coming days. Despite that, the RFS assure the public that the smoke haze should clear by the weekend just in time for the Sydney Marathon.

What precautions should all people in Sydney take with the smoke haze, whether or not you're doing the Sydney Marathon?

Over the coming days, it’s a good idea to keep your windows closed, exercise indoors and keep a puffer or other medications nearby if you have asthma or heart conditions. Oh, and maybe leave the washing until the weekend. Nobody wants smoked shorts!

When will the Sydney air quality improve?

Runners who will be competing in this weekend's Sydney Marathon might be wondering what the air quality will be like this weekend.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, come Saturday morning the smoke haze is predicted to lift thanks to a light northwesterly wind, which could reach up to 20km/h in some parts of Sydney. On Sunday (race day), those light winds are still going to be hanging around, which should completely dissipate any leftover particles from the backburning. 

Of course, predictions are just that – predictions – which means anything could happen between now and the big marathon on Sunday. If there is still haze about on Sunday, you may have to adjust your pace to accommodate the extra work being done by your lungs.

How can you exercise or train for a marathon with bad air quality in Sydney?

Bad air quality affects the lungs by making them work double time to get rid of the carcinogens being breathed in. Lungs are a pretty integral part of your performance when you're running, so if you have access to a treadmill, try to do your training runs indoors, especially if you have asthma or any heart conditions. If running outdoors is your only option, wait until you've noticed the haze clearing as the day goes on.

Is it safe to exercise or run in the Sydney Marathon with smoke haze?

If the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches over 150, advice is that it’s best to avoid outdoor exercise. Each day at 4pm, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment releases the air quality forecast for the following day – we suggest checking this out, here, before weighing up your options. 

If you have underlying health conditions and the air quality is still looking like an issue, we suggest chatting to your GP to figure out the safest plan of action.

What's the weather forecast for the Sydney Marathon?

In case the smoke haze wasn’t enough to consider, there’s also some unseasonably warm weather on the way this weekend. Traditionally, the Sydney Marathon has been held in mid-September thanks to the crisp, spring morning weather making for perfect long-distance running conditions. However, according to weather forecasts, we’re in for a toasty five-day heat spell, which may see temperatures rise up into the high 20s on Sunday. Saturday may even reach 30 degrees.

With this in mind organisers of the Sydney Marathon have been keeping a close eye on the forecasts and have released a statement via their social channels: “To address the heat, we are taking several precautionary steps, including increasing the availability of hydration stations and medical assistance points along the course. Our goal is to ensure that you have access to the necessary support and resources to stay safe and enjoy your Sydney Marathon experience to the fullest. Tomorrow, we will receive an updated weather forecast directly from the Bureau of Meteorology. Following this update, we will provide you with more detailed guidance on how to best take care of yourself before, during, and after the race.”

For the most up-to-date information, be sure to stay tuned to the Sydney Marathon social accounts and the Bureau of Meteorology. Take care and stay safe!

Doing the marathon? Cool off in the giant ice bath at the Ivy Pool at the official Ivy After Party.

Hungry? Here are our favourite Sydney picks for healthy eats that don't suck.

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