I have found it at last! My perfect pace. After struggling through a few painful runs riddled with side-aches and near-exploding lungs, I enjoyed an amazing 3 1/2-miler the other day. Turns out, my perfect pace is kinda slow, but that's okay! It's all about crossing the finish line in the upright position.
It was so great to relax into my stride and really enjoy my run. Bonus: I didn't feel like I was going to die when I was done!
I am now looking forward to my tweener race: The Shamrock Shuffle here in Madison. Thanks to your recommendations, I'm going to give it a go. I'm a little concerned about doing Observatory Hill out AND back, but it's just a new challenge to conquer- bring it on!
Maybe I'll see some of you out there. Cheers and good luck!