Beijing Smog Blog

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Friday’s high temperature in Beijing (according to The Weather Channel): 88 degrees.

Humidity (at 8:30 a.m. local time): 84 percent.

The view from the Conference Center on Friday.

This morning, I went for a run. The Beijing Conference Center (our hotel) does not have a workout facility (it does have pingpong tables!), but the grounds are beautiful. When I see a grassy park, I want to run. So I decided my need for strong lungs trumped my need for clean ones. Besides, my curiosity got the best of me.

Back in October, U.S. mountain bike rider Adam Craig told me about his experience at their test event. Only eight of about 50 men (and half the women’s field) finished the race, and he said he experienced involuntary lung spasms about halfway through the race and had to quit. But these guys were doing extreme physical activity. I was just going for a quick run. How bad could it be?

The grounds at the Conference Center are beautiful, so I decided I would concentrate on the scenery instead of the air. But I must admit, as I stood at the door to my room and looked at the air (yes, you can see it), I had the same feeling I do the moment before dropping in on a steep, sketchy snowboard run. But on the mountain, I usually am quick to realize I’ve been making a big deal of nothing. Not so here.

It took about 10 minutes for my breathing to shorten. As I tried to inhale more deeply, my lungs began doing something I can describe only as “skipping a beat.” In the same way your heart beats irregularly when you are nervous or excited, my lungs were taking in air in fits and starts. It was pretty scary. So I stopped running and surrendered to another craving that hits me when I see wide-open fields of grass. I did cartwheels.

Tomorrow, I’m trying the pool.

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