If one is starting from scratch, as I was when I began my fitness pursuits, it can sometimes be discouraging to be reminded of how . . . well, how SLOW one is. I remember reading about people who could run the blistering speed of 10 minutes per mile and thinking . . . man, is that FAST. I mean, when I started "getting fit" I could barely finish 2 miles on the treadmill at an 18 minute/mile speed without thinking I would die, and I recall thinking . . . how am I ever going to get faster? Will I ever get faster?
The thing is, I didn't realize at the time that the people who could run those ten minute miles had, for the most part, been running for a long, long time. Even assuming natural running talent, running any number of consecutive ten minute miles requires cardiovascular endurance training. This does not happen overnight. In fact, for the average recreational runner, it happens very, very slowly.
My 18 minute miles very quickly became 16, then 15, then 14 minute miles. In fact, tonight I did a 2 mile run at a 13.58 minute pace. My next training goal, which I hope to meet by the end of August, is to run a sub-40 minute 5k. That requires a 13.3 minute per mile pace. It's not a pace I could have imagined 18 months ago. It's also not a pace I intend to stay at for very long. I completed a half-marathon a month ago. I couldn't have imagined that 18 months ago either.
All of this is to say, when you are slogging away at what feels like an interminably slow pace, or when your distance goals are in the single digits, remember: don't compare your beginnings to someone else's middle or end.