Starting where you're at
Possibly not the best use of grammar, but a very key message of improving in running and any other pursuit in life is to start where you're at... or to be grammatically correct "start where you are".
When I started focusing on sub-MAF heart rate training to develop my aerobic system, I didn't like where I was at. I had no one to run with since the pace I was running was far slower than anyone else out there. I was constantly being passed by grandmas on the roads and trails. I wanted to be faster and it was incredibly frustrating to feel like I was barely moving while others whizzed by. People would pass me and ask if I was injured because I was walking and jogging rather than running.
And then I changed my perspective. I dialed myself back to the lower end of my training range and I told myself I was going out for a walk and what running or jogging I was able to do was bonus. Then over time I started to see real progress. Gradually the trend line was moving in the right direction.
Through consistent and deliberate practice I'm finally getting to the point where my easy sub-MAF pace is actually where others are jogging/running. But because I got there by taking it easy, I'm still making progress. Far more than if I had started faster to boost my ego. I have no doubt in time that my easy pace will creep up to the point where I wanted to be when I started this journey.
It's easy to fool yourself into overreaching and starting at a place you're not ready to start, just because everyone else is. But you don't really know whether everyone else is in the right place for them either. Considering I am training slower than probably 90% of the people I know yet posting race times faster than that same percentage - I know I'm doing what's right for my body and for long term progress. (Not to mention, feeling great and needing basically zero recovery!)
You can think about it this way... If you were learning a language or musical instrument, you wouldn't start in a 3rd level class just because all your friends were there. You would be totally lost, confused, and discouraged that you weren't making progress. Even if you thought you belonged there - because what if you didn't? If you were unsure where to start - wouldn't you be better off to start in the 1st or 2nd level? Sure, you might be repeating things you already knew but you would be practicing key skills and building a solid foundation by the time you reached that 3rd level naturally. Over time you would find yourself progressing much more rapidly because your development through the levels was built on the solid tenet of gradual progress rather than on a haphazard approach.
Mastering running really isn't fundamentally different than mastering other activities. It takes time, deliberate practice, and consistency - starting where YOU are at. Right now.