I don't know exactly when running became easier - but at some point it did. Though I would still never say "running is easy" - and that's where the myth of easier comes in.
What does "easy" or "easier" really mean? This came up again a few months ago when I was running with some friends. There were 5 of us, most of whom are faster than I am. The route was also rather hilly and I was supposed to be doing an "easy" run.
At the end of the run, we were talking about this word "easy". I figured I'd run about 10:00 miles, but we ran our miles at an average pace of around 9:30. That pace plus a lot of hills = not my idea of an easy run.
But, someone said to me "with the exception of when we were going up the hills, you could hold a conversation the entire time, right?" - and the answer was yes. If I can talk while running, the run is not super hard.
Pain is inevitable in running - that's something I'm learning too. I was reading an article in Runner's World about tempo runs and the elite runner they were using as an example said her tempo run pace was "uncomfortable". Shalane Flanagan, who was the first American woman in the Boston Marathon, was physically ill after running Boston. So what does "easy" really mean?
I'm learning that easy doesn't mean what I thought it meant - and that getting easier isn't what I'm going for. If I want to keep improving, I shouldn't get to the point where every run feels easy. If every run feels easy, I'm not getting better. Meb and Shalane and Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher - all the "elite" runners - run training runs that HURT. They don't skip over those big marathon finish lines doing cartwheels.
In the end, I don't want easy. I thought I did. But as I've grown as a runner (and as an athlete and person), I've realized that easy isn't where I want to be. I want to get to the end of a run and feel like I accomplished something. Yes, some runs will (and should) be "easy". But I don't want to "live" in easy. I want to live in exciting and challenging and strengthening!