Jean-Paul Close, Eric de Groot and Pierre Cluitmans
In August 2015, one of our partners in the regional government pointed out to us
that the Marathon of Eindhoven that year was subsidized based on an innovation
clause. “Would it not be nice to see if AiREAS and the Marathon organization
could combine sports and air quality?”Organization of the Marathon for the
coming years is in the hands of a Belgian sports organization, Golazo, which took
over the responsibility from a special local NGO. The ﬁrst contact with the general
manager was positive and a multidisciplinary meeting was soon scheduled. Time
was pressing, as the Marathon traditionally takes place in the second week of
October. Golazo had already introduced innovations of their own and welcomed the
partnership with AiREAS, but could not invest resources other than the available
exposure and infrastructure.
As mentioned before, it is a challenge for AiREAS to reach the large civilian base
of the city about the idea of them taking co-creative responsibility for their own
quality of life, health and the air we breathe. Linking our objectives with the massive
physical running exercise of the Marathon could give us the opportunity to see if
event-related communication would be more effective than the standalone invitation
to take responsibility. The context of the Marathon is much more in line with health
and breathing than the daily context of our reigning social economical paradigm.
J.-P. Close (&)
STIR Foundation/AiREAS, Sustainocracy, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
E. de Groot
Imagelabonline and Cardiovascular, Eindhoven and Lunteren, The Netherlands
Signal Processing Systems Group and Kempenhaeghe Expertise Center for Epilepsy,
Sleep Medicine and Neurocognition, University of Technology Eindhoven, Heeze,
©The Author(s) 2016
J.-P. Close (ed.), AiREAS: Sustainocracy for a Healthy City,
SpringerBriefs on Case Studies of Sustainable Development,
5.1 Call for Co-creation
Within the scope of AiREAS, a call among all ILM and POP partners was made to
bring a number of multidisciplinary talents into this communication channel and
opportunity. “No budget”does not mean anything when dealing with creation; on
the contrary, it stimulates co-creation, especially when one is surrounded with top
talent. The core asset of a creative community is not money, but rather the com-
bined talents and willingness to connect in value driven initiatives of the partici-
pants. This, in fact, is the message of the STIR Foundation, the claim that activated
citizens are the main value of a city. Buildings and streets are mere instruments for
producing value-driven interaction. In our perception they only represent value
when in use.
The marathon challenge within the context of the POP2 of civilian participation
and response to air quality was one of open experimentation and reciprocity in the
diversity of possible returns. Following the AiREAS POP approach, three lines of
•Communication in an event-related environment
•Medical research among athletes and their supporters
From a communication point of view, the Province of North Brabant showed a
willingness to help develop materials, as long as the research and results were
utilized on a provincial level, rather than merely being local event-related. From a
sustainocratic point of view, this is a logical approach. The Marathon is not our
goal, health and healthy air is, with the Marathon as means. This set the tone for our
investigation, which also involved the cities of Helmond and Breda in the chal-
lenge. It was clear to us that Marathon runners do not just come from Eindhoven,
The first multidisciplinary encounter, AiREAS - Marathon
98 J.-P. Close et al.
but also from other regions. They train where they live, so involvement of a broader
geographical scope beyond Eindhoven was certainly desirable. It also connected to
a broader recreational philosophy of peer 4 regional development, connecting urban
and rural infrastructures in such a way so as to stimulate sport, recreation and
In this study, we have already concluded that modern people spend about 90 %
of their time indoors while sitting down. Even outdoors, we spend most of the time
sitting in or on vehicles. Sitting is now being called the “new smoking”, the next
major health hazard that our lifestyle has developed. When we realize that we
consume 30 kg of air every day, the context of sitting down indoors versus physical
exercise outdoors provides interesting research opportunities and insight into the
development of our health and lifestyles in general. The Province is working now
with the Health Deal, but in essence, 9 out of 10 executive decisions still result in
health reduction and pollution. This has already been referred to as the perverse
reality of an era in transition, but it is certainly one to be taken into account.
Resonating with health is a learning process in which many variables interact. Our
AiREAS participation in the Marathon was our ﬁrst chance to take a look at a
totally new world and was a potential eye-opener for policy makers, citizens and
Enthusiasm grew within the AiREAS team, and our proactive “can do”attitude
confused the commercially-oriented marathon organization more and more.
AiREAS relates to the higher purpose of health, which leads us, and treats all
partners, including the Marathon organization, as equals. As our ideas became more
concrete, so did the demands on the organization for facilitation. Whatever we were
given as support was gratefully integrated into our own evolution. The communi-
cation challenge was coordinated by Jean-Paul, and the medical one by Eric, while
the value-driven entrepreneurial challenge appeared everywhere.
5.2 Communication Challenge
AiREAS has its own source of information that can be made relevant to the
Marathon challenge: historical and real-time air quality information. Also, our
accumulated expertise became relevant to both the Marathon organization and the
Media. AiREAS reasons from a perspective of regional health and shared
responsibilities. The Marathon and the Media had different interests of their own:
•Marathon organization: How does Eindhoven compare to Beijing? Can a focus
on healthy air bring in top athletes who want to break world records?
•Media: A sensationalist approach based on highlighting possible negative (the
city council discussed the AiREAS call for a carless Sunday at the governance
level) and positive (will we break a world record this year?) consequences of the
5 Event-Linked Communication 99
For communication, we again distinguish between information supply (making
visible the invisible) and actual communication. The ﬁrst is unidirectional and the
second is interactive, with a focus on health involvement and measureable
(a) Air quality during Marathon 2015 in Eindhoven
(b) Air quality comparison with Marathon Day in 2014
(c) Air quality information from other areas of the world, e.g., Beijing
(d) Medical health ﬁndings from those same areas
(e) Innovative actions for healthy air (banners, blogs, etc.)
(f) Informative interaction with the media.
(a) Communicative interaction with the media
(b) Interaction with athletes and supporters
(c) Interaction with visitors
(d) Interaction with sponsors and organizations
(e) Workshop (3rd of November)
(f) The Brabant context.
One of the information banners created for the Marathon
100 J.-P. Close et al.
Within these lines, we would be able to see if we could positively stimulate the
people and positively affect the environment with measureable results. The com-
munication team was developed for the purpose of interpretation and publication of
speciﬁc Marathon-related air quality and health insights, and the accumulation
of video material and interviews and interaction with the media. The team
Jean-Paul Close—supervisor, media contact and researcher
Andre van der Wiel—camera team, together with his sons
Jason Clarcke—Fontys student and interviewer.
5.3 Medical Challenge
Eric de Groot, together with his POP and professional team, set up a temporary lab.
A call was sent out to the participating runners to get them to participate in medical
research equivalent to what we had done in the POP1 earlier that year with the 40
volunteers described in Chap. 2. Again, the objective was to look at health and
lifestyle aspects of the participants and try to relate this to the quality of the air. By
lining up all research activities, the results could be compared.
There were also differences.
•The intake interviews were done by members of Eric’s own organization.
•A German product developer, Dr. Lutz Kraushaar, used the Marathon to test his
brand new software and method of charting the vascular aging of participants by
applying only 4 non-invasive pressure points.
•Pierre Cluitmans had acquired TomTom watches, so the runners would each
carry one during the race.
•Pierre also enlisted a university student studying electrotechniques to assist him
with the HRV measurements.
The medical research team ultimately consisted of:
•Dr. Eric de Groot—supervisor, assisted by 2 members of his team
•Dr. Pierre Cluitmans—HRV and TomTom watches, assisted by a student
•Dr. Lutz Kraushaar—vascular age charting, assisted by his wife.
Recruiting participants was easier this time because of the context-driven alli-
ance with Golazo. A call was made through Golazo’s e-mail list and the response
was instantaneous and quite good. We even had to disappoint some people because
our capacity of 20 individuals had been fulﬁlled. This proved to us again that
5 Event-Linked Communication 101
connecting people through context is much more effective than cold calls that have
no multiple interaction on a personal level. What does this mean? It proved much
more effective to address combinations such as sports/air quality, environmental
afﬁliation/air quality, study direction/air quality, physical exercise/health,
sports/health/air quality, etc., than simply air quality and health. People tend to
connect their own To Be and To Do selectively, through a concrete, meaningful
interrelationship between the two. The reciprocal “what’s in it for me?”becomes
relative to the reward coming from the To Do, not necessarily the moral To Be. This
would lead us yet again to the conclusion that the issue of “health and air quality”is
a regional leadership issue, managing the societal To Do impulses in relation to the
To Be leadership. On the other hand, this would also mean that polluting commuter
cultures formed out of the socio-economic interests of labor can be attributed to a
lack of core value-driven leadership focused on managing the wrong culture and
priorities. Linking communication to sport, health and air quality was the right type
of leadership, with the Marathon serving as the podium.
5.4 The Day of the Marathon
The announcement of the alliance between AiREAS and the Marathon had already
drawn the attention of the Media. To our surprise, we found that the ﬁnish line had
been built right at the location of one of our measurement stations. In terms of
media attention, this was excellent, especially because it was also on the doorstep of
the hotel where all the sponsors had gathered.
During TV and radio interviews, I experimented with messages that called for
attention to air quality in relation to the runners. The call to avoid BBQ-ing the
evening before and the suggestion to introduce a “carless Sunday”to honor the
event had particular resonance. This became apparent through the many personal
The Airbox had a prominent position
102 J.-P. Close et al.
reﬂections I received from people in my own surroundings who recognized me
from the TV appearance, as well as sports people who mentioned the call when
interviewed during the event. Later, Golazo came to us with the curious feedback
that one of the major sponsors, DLL, had cancelled their large sponsor barbecue and
had organized something else to entertain their guests. All these lines of feedback
showed the power of purpose-driven, event-related communication.
On the day itself, the response to this type of communication was even greater
than it had been during the week. This seems logical from the perspective of
context. When an interview with a “leave your car at home”message is heard while
someone is commuting to work, the resonance is different than it might be while
supporting your son, daughter or wife while they engage in extraordinary physical
exercise. The moment in time and the circumstances at that instant also determine
the degree of individual perception and receptiveness to information.
We also experimented with banners and stickers to visualize our presence during
the Marathon, but time was too short to get our message well-integrated into the
organization. The Marathon as an event is still set up from a business perspective
and never from the ideology of a contribution to societal health. Co-creation was
limited to the level of awareness of the challenge and the willingness to co-invest.
Golazo offered their channels and infrastructures and AiREAS did their own thing.
Organizing such a big event is an enormous effort, involving 23,000 athletes,
200,000 spectators, 400 reps from sponsors and 1500 volunteers.
This image shows the Marathon route through town with Ozone levels mapped across the
5 Event-Linked Communication 103
AiREAS’s higher purpose could not take the lead at this stage, since the entire
organization had already been set up. We had to resign ourselves to whatever we
could get in terms of space and integration. Golazo gave us a spot in the hotel
among the sponsors to tell our story. For the medical research, we received a
number of square meters in the exhibition hall where the runners would gather
before starting. With great creativity, the AiREAS medical team installed them-
selves and interacted with this environment, also a totally new experience for us.
5.5 Air Quality
The Marathon day itself was clear and sunny, with a blue sky, an excellent tem-
perature for sports and a healthy start from an air quality point of view. It seemed
that the call for attention to this point of view (no cars, no bbq’s) had worked out
well. This is impossible to conﬁrm, of course. It is already difﬁcult to move around
town with a car when the major part of it is blocked for the Marathon. The verbal
discouragement is probably a minor factor compared to the practical discourage-
ment of the road blocks.
From PM10 and 2.5 perspectives, we see that the day started out with an average
of about 25 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m
) and 20 μg/m
During the day, this average would lower to 17 and 10 (see ﬁgure below).
Air quality on October 11th (Marathon day). Graph on top is PM10 and on bottom PM2.5
104 J.-P. Close et al.
On the left hand side of the picture, we see the relative Ozone levels in the weeks
prior to the Marathon. Various peaks can be observed related to heat spills. The city
of Breda has just 2 airboxes, which show similar but relatively higher peaks. The
problem we face in analyzing the ozone information is that we have doubts about the
absolute levels registered, due to the difﬁculty our technological partner conﬁrmed in
measuring these gases. So, we have to stick to the relative information of ﬂuctuations.
On the Marathon day itself, we can see (right hand side, middle picture) that the
ozone level was relatively low at the beginning of the day and built itself up
gradually throughout the day. Intelligence shows that ozone is a very unstable gas
that builds up from other substances in the measurement ﬁeld of PM as temperature
rises. We observe, then, a decline in PM and an increase in ozone. This was the case
during the Marathon.
Comparing the data with that of one year before (2014, the top picture on the
right hand side), we see sharper peaks and a longer low period. This was caused by
a different type of weather in 2014 than that in 2015. Looking at data without
context is, hence, crazy and delivers hardly any workable insight. It is difﬁcult to
imagine how ministries have dealt with policy-making by simply looking at data
and averages when context is the most signiﬁcant factor for getting an idea as to
what is really going on. It also strengthened our idea that established norms of
pollution hardly say anything about the wellness of a region. The context-related
exposure of individuals and localized circumstances say much more. It is thus not
the fragmented air quality norms that are relevant but the health of our citizens in
their daily socio-economic dynamics.
It is hard to imagine the Marathon in Beijing and compare it with Eindhoven.
Beijing has concentrations of PM that are, on average, up to and above 10 times
Ozone peaks in weeks before the Marathon and on the day itself, in Eindhoven and Breda
(benchmark city without a Marathon that day)
5 Event-Linked Communication 105
higher than those in Eindhoven. Chinese authorities that visited AiREAS laughed at
us for making such a fuss about our air quality. “You have no problem”, they
tended to say, looking out of the window. When we explained that our focus on
health rather than pollution has become the newest innovative driver inﬂuencing
our social cohesion and entrepreneurial spirit, their attitude transformed into one of
curiosity. From a carless Sunday action in Brussels in September 2015, we learned
that such an initiative has an immediate temporary effect on the air quality in town,
but Beijing is probably not just polluted by trafﬁc. All the measures taken by the
Chinese government to host their own Marathon or Olympic Games may produce a
short period of improved health, but we had a different, non-remedial approach. In
Eindhoven and North Brabant, we wanted to see how sports, physical exercise and
air quality could enhance our quality of life and productivity all year round.
The geographical conditions in Eindhoven are good for a marathon race, and if air
quality can be positively taken for granted, then the race could become one of the
fastest in the world. This year (2015), it registered as number ﬁve on the world
ranking of speed. Various people deliberately choose this particular marathon in
their quest for personal achievement. And a number conﬁrmed that they did achieve
personal records. Curiously, as the ozone increased during the day, more com-
plaints were heard by athletes who did not achieve their expected personal record
despite the beautiful day, while in the morning, when the ozone was low, the
opposite trend was observed. Ozone is a gas that irritates the lungs, so the obser-
vation makes sense. The feedback was, however, subjective, and involved too few
participants to make it scientiﬁcally valid. Logically, we may be able to get better
feedback if we start concentrating on this particular issue based on this
well-founded suspicion. This became something to think about in regard to sub-
sequent events and next year’s marathon.
5.6.1 Conclusions from a Communication Perspective
The link between the marathon and air quality triggered a lot of interest among the
media. This helped develop awareness, especially among the people who resonate
with sports, and this event speciﬁcally, for personal reasons. Interestingly, AiREAS
was approached a number of months later by people who said that they had left the
car at home and avoided barbecuing to support the athletes. But they also expressed
their frustration at having gone to such trouble only to observe a new event in town
a week later, Dutch Design Week, in which old-time buses were used to transport
people between regions in town. Those buses were highly polluting and demoti-
vated the people who had shown goodwill the previous week.
106 J.-P. Close et al.
This shows that we still have a long way to go. The perverse situation of a town
with an executive health deal that still makes 9 out of 10 unhealthy decisions
continues. But we need to start somewhere, and we need to show continuity,
determination and celebrate our progression. The marathon link has provided us
with multiple media appearances, exposure to huge amounts of people and excel-
lent new insights that we can develop into roadmaps for health. Our own camera
teams on the street also produced lasting material that demonstrates the psy-
chosocial evolution people go through.
Among the marathon sponsors, we also found business people who were ori-
enting themselves towards becoming much more involved in the value-driven
progression and 4×proﬁt philosophy of STIR and AiREAS through the Pyramid
Paradigm described in Chap. 4. This also shows a trend towards business-oriented
entrepreneurship in which proﬁt becomes relevant to value creation, rather than
speculation. Without much effort, we united over 8 of such value-driven innovators
for follow-up projects and new initiatives.
5.6.2 The Medical Research
Our temporary lab was set up in less than one hour by Eric’s team. The experience
of the POP in the ﬁrst half of 2015 showed. People interacted with each other
instantly and trustfully. The ﬁrst athletes showed up and could be dealt with
immediately in a well-coordinated chain of research events.
•Handing out the watches.
The temporary research lab
5 Event-Linked Communication 107
The athletes in this research were of different ages. They did not all run the entire
marathon, but did all participate in an intense race for which they had trained a lot.
Comparing the different communities and their health characteristics, we could
obtain some interesting cardiovascular insight, even while dealing with relatively
small groups of people. The information had been gathered from the POP and
Marathon, in which we also distinguished between people who smoke (air pollu-
tion) and those who don’t.
The results measured in vascular wall thickness can be seen in this graph, drawn
up by Dr. de Groot and his team. The information is clear. People who do regular
physical exercise, such as training for the marathon, showed a slower vascular
aging process than those who don’t. People who smoke show a much faster process
of thickening, which makes them much more vulnerable for strokes and attacks.
Dr. Eric de Groot doing his cardiovascular research
Aging of the vascular wall (thickness in mm) by age
Orange = Marathon participants, Blue = POP participants, Black = smokers
108 J.-P. Close et al.
The information gathered by Dr. Kraushaar shows that sports people have a
higher stroke volume than other people, meaning that their heart pumps more blood
per stroke. Thanks to their sporting activities, their hearts display chambers of larger
volume. In general, they would need fewer strokes per minute to oxygenate their
Also, vascular ﬂexibility is much better among runners in comparison with
non-running people. We had called for two persons from the same family, one a
runner and the other a close relative. We could thus assume that their lifestyles and
living conditions were as similar as can be, allowing us to relate the measured
Dr. Lutz Kraushaar with his unique vascular mapping techniques
5 Event-Linked Communication 109
differences primarily to sports. Of course, all kinds of other factors could have been
inﬂuential, such as DNA, job stress, professional activities, etc. But seeing the
results, we can very conﬁdently state that sports and physical exercise have a
determining effect on the health of the heart and arteries.
Pierre Cluitmans and his methods examined Heart Rate Variability both when at
rest and while engaging in the running exercise.
Dr. Pierre Cluitmans doing his HRV registration with people at rest
110 J.-P. Close et al.
As we have already seen in Chap. 2, the amount of data collected on Heart Rate
Variability is tremendous. The impressive set of data per individual, placed in the
context of lifestyle or sports, gives very valuable information about the way a
person deals with stress and stress recovery leading into new phases of rest. It can
also be seen to what extent sports inﬂuence such variables.
Dr. Cluitmans collecting the HRV registration devices from the athletes who came bac
Heart Rate Variability (Red) and breathing (Blue) of a participant at rest
1 minute laying down on the bench
5 Event-Linked Communication 111
We can easily see through heart rate and respiration that every person is dif-
ferent, which makes such an investigation so interesting and special, but also so
complex. We also see that there is an inverse relationship between respiration and
heartbeat. When engaging in sports, this is, of course, important too. Interestingly,
if you compare this image with the one on variable economics, the resemblance is
The data that Pierre collected on the runners during the race shows the rela-
tionship between the development of speed and their heartbeats.
Breathing (blue) and heart rhythm (red) of another participant at rest
1 minute laying down on the bench
Example of measurements of heartbeat (gray) and speed (green) of a participant during the
112 J.-P. Close et al.
5.7 Conclusion of the Medical Data
Detailed analysis of all this data can zoom in on the health situation of a particular
person and even predict possible heart or vascular problems at a later stage in life.
The technology and research options are powerful instruments for preventive care
and a stimulus for the evolution of a healthier lifestyle through making visible the
invisible, including at the level of our own life support systems. In this way,
preventive care can save the community enormous healthcare costs while
enhancing the overall regional quality of life and the way people interact with each
other and their environment.
In the book (AiREAS Phase 2) written by the health scientists and researchers
themselves, more detail can be found about their proceedings and ﬁndings during
the POP process. The link to that work will also be made available through Springer
and our communication channels.
5.7.1 Overall Conclusion of the Marathon Exercise
Large events engage people with a particular mindset, allowing them to resonate
more with related subjects than they might otherwise in daily life. The marathon
showed the link between sports and our health. As an event, it had great com-
municative value for creating a health-driven mindset and pinpointing problems that
otherwise remain largely unspoken of within the current paradigm of political-
economic steering. From a research point of view, it was extremely valuable to be
able to compare the data of different groups of people in society and show the
relevance of physical exercise at all ages. The comparison with people who smoke
also shows how lifestyle choices affect the health perspective negatively. While
smoking is a personal choice, exposure to outdoor air pollution is not. In some
reports, the authors compare exposure to outdoor pollution as being equivalent to
smoking between 4 (Eindhoven) and 40 (Beijing) cigarettes per day. Applying this
analogy to the POP research, it shows that taking responsibility together (citizens
and governance) for the quality of our shared air is directly related to the evolution
of our health.
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5 Event-Linked Communication 113