I'm not a fast runner.
I accept this fact. There was a time in my running life, back in college when I had definition in my abs and an 8-minute mile was my easy day. But that time has come and gone.
Nowadays, I've shortened my stride. Slowed myself down to enjoy the mountains. I stop to take pictures, slow down on the uphills and focus on my footwork. I try to convince myself I run because I love to run, and not to get faster or break any land speed records.
However, I don't find that I'm any easier on myself at the end of the run, and while I shouldn't make any excuses for my performance (unless it's valid), I need to take some pause before doing so.
I ran an easy 10 miles today. I went out knowing it was going to be long and slow, and I had no idea how fast it was going to be. Didn't really care, because it was cold, windy, raining, maybe snowing, and cloudy in Denver for the first time in ages. I finished the run at about a 10-minute pace with splits all over the place because of long and steep hills. I felt good the whole way, never feeling like I was exerting too much energy and ended back at my apartment fairly certain I could run another several miles at the same pace comfortably.
Then I really looked at my numbers, and felt defeated. No, I didn't hurt at mile 4, but I could have sworn I was running at least a 9-minute pace. Did I really only finish the final mile in 9:58, because I swore I was flying!
Afterwards, I compared my time with my last easy long run, a 9.29 mile lap up the road and back about two months ago. I averaged a 10:51 pace that run (even when I paused the timer to take the two pictures at Bear Creek on the right, which I ran by today under heavy cloud cover). I did almost a minute better per mile over a longer distance today.
Long distances are humbling. It isn't just how physically fit you are, but mentally prepared as well. Two hours of running, four, six, twenty-four hours... it takes more than strong legs to get you there.
And gives you a greater appreciation for the view!