It's called 'lowering the bar'.
Last night I was late for running club. This gave me the ideal excuse to abandon the longer runs and return to my favourite (which is also the shortest and the one all the beginners do). The first 9 minutes were spent coughing up a rib as usual, but it soon became quite enjoyable and I was even able to chat to my friend for pretty much the entire way round. My legs didn't feel like lead and my lungs seemed to function normally (unlike last week, when they felt like small acorns).
I even had enough energy to go to the pub after for a post-match beer. Now, I still want to resume the longer distance runs, if only because they make returning to the shorter ones so much more enjoyable. But at least now I know I'm not completely unfit (and I can cancel the doctor's appointment I'd made as I'd hypochondriacally decided that if running was this painful, then there must be something badly wrong.)
(Stats: Forgot my stopwatch, so no idea on time, but I did 4.3 miles, one half of bitter and several potato wedges.)