When I started running my mantra was, "go the speed that allows you to keep going." It was almost impossible for me to get past 5.7 mph on the treadmill without feeling like my stomach was going to explode and I was going to have a heart attack. But I kept at it. Sure, I ran a few "fast" races but mostly because I couldn't pace myself and I got caught up in the excitement of the race at the beginning and then it was a struggle to get to the finish line. I ran my first half marathon and my goal was to run it averaging a 10:40 min mile or about 5.6mph. And I did it! And I continued to run at this pace.
Throughout the winter I stuck close to the gym, alternating running and weight training all the while maintaining around a 5.7 mph pace on the treadmill. Most days at the gym I did a quick weight circuit and then ran 2-3 miles. I didn't really have a goal so I didn't run more than I really had to but I wanted to stay in shape and the lady at the gym said if I did weights before cardio I'd burn more calories in my cardio workout.
Then spring rolled around and I got out on the roads and my GPS watch told me that I was running closer to a 10 min mile (6mph). Wow, exciting! Back at the gym I bumped up the speed to 5.8 then 5.9 and then 6.0 and I could handle it! I wasn't dying! At some point during the winter I got harder, better, faster, stronger (let's see who gets that reference...) and I didn't even realize it! I ran a 10k in April and wouldn't you know it, I averaged a 9:34 pace! I had run a 10k last year and averaged 9:44 pace but with a mile left I felt like I was going to keel over and die at any moment. At my most recent 10k I had energy to spare to sprint uphill across the finish line at the end!
Since that race there has been no stopping me! Today at the gym I averaged under a 9:30 mile! The other day at the park I ran a sub 9 min mile! Every day I run I push myself to go faster and farther. I can feel the progress I've been making. I no longer feel like dying with every step that I take. I no longer need to rely on my iPod 100% of the time to mask the sound of myself gasping for air! I am a RUNNER!