There happens to be a beautiful park a few blocks from the hotel, with jogging trails and flowering greenery, and with this spectacular view:
So, I cranked up the iPhone, flipped through my music catalog for something appropriately inspiring and took off, like I'd done hundreds of times before.
Two minutes later, I noticed something. My breathing seemed labored. Ah, yes, I said to myself. I'm running in a city that's 9300 feet above sea level. In the Andes Mountains. I should take it easy. So I slowed to a fast jog.
For two minutes. My legs were loose and ready to pump, my lungs felt clear and open, I was motivated to circle this beautiful park until sweat soaked my clothes. There was only one small problem: there didn't seem to be any oxygen. I downshifted to a very slow jog and inhaled as deeply as I could with every breath. I'd been in this city for three days, I'd walked miles and miles with little effort, but as I changed pace from a slow walk to a steady jog, it started to make a huge difference.
I really wanted to run the perimeter of this park and enjoy its beauty. There was no guarantee that I would ever return. So I pressed on.
I made it this far...maybe a mile....and it took me thirty minutes. I stopped, gasping for the few oxygen molecules drifting by on the breeze. A couple of local folks ran past me, carrying on a conversation as they raced forward and I wondered how it was possible for them to do that. I sat on the grass for a long while. Then I got up and walked. Slowly.
Heading back to the hotel, an image came to mind of a fish out of water, panting for air that he was unable to assimilate. A lifelong flatlander running in the mountains? Just call me trout.