The road ahead will produce random thoughts about swing tempo and running pace. (Image: KmacN/Flickr)

Running for 20 miles gives you a lot of time to think. If you run at my pace, you’ll have three hours, twenty-eight minutes, and forty-one seconds (to be precise) to ponder life’s greatest questions.

On Sunday, I finished my first 20-mile-run in preparation for running a marathon on April 24. As I was slowly jogging up a deceptively steep hill in our neighborhood, one word occurred to me:  tempo.

Tempo is so important in running. If you’re out for a three-and-a-half hour jog, you can’t run your first mile at a nine minute pace when your goal time is a ten minute pace. Not smart.

Halfway up the hill, my mind strangely wandered to my golf swing. Why? I don’t know. Maybe the Kings of Leon song in my ear wasn’t doing it for me at the time. When I swing slower, when I take my foot off the pedal just a little bit, I make better contact with the ball and produce a straighter shot. Tempo.

When you don’t run or swing a golf club with tempo, you produce more effort while getting lackluster results. If I speed out of the gates at my marathon, I might feel good about myself for 10 or 11 miles, but by the time mile 20 rolls around, I will be hurting.

Golf taught me something else about running. I played nine holes at The Legislature—one of Robert Trent Jones’ Capitol Hill courses in Montgomery—on Saturday morning. Three holes were underwater or my brother-in-law and I would’ve played the back nine. Anyway, I shot a 36—which brings me to my second point. Expectations.

I’ve always played golf relatively well when I didn’t expect a good score. Saturday was the first time I have swung a club in four or five months. I didn’t expect to play well, but somehow I managed two birdies, an even par nine holes, and seven greens in regulation (with five makeable birdie putts).

When I play in tournaments, when I actually expect to do well, my scores tend to suffer. The psychology of golf is maddening.

And that’s why I’ve enjoyed running. I’ve never been a runner. I never thought I would be a runner. But somehow in less than 10 months, I’ve gone from feeling totally zapped from running half a mile to running 20 miles in one afternoon. Expectations.

I don’t expect to run three-hour marathons. I don’t expect to win races. I’m simply out there having fun and challenging myself.

So golf has taught me a thing or two about running. Or maybe it’s a vice versa? Whatever the case may be, I’ve learned to take a deep breath (literally), slow it down, and enjoy the moment—or the four hours of running.