lou walsh, lcpc

30 n. michigan avenue

suite 1516

chicago, illinois 60602


email:  louwalsh6@aol.com


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An Irish Valentine

I am the slowest runner in the world.  This is a true fact I learned in the River Forest 10K several years ago, when I   was beaten out for second-to-last place by a man with a seeing-eye dog.  On the surface this is no big deal, because you don’t need eyesight to run.  This guy, however, had the additional impediment of a dog that led him in lazy S’s all over the course instead of in a straight line, and the two of them still kicked my ass.  Not surprising, because I am Slowie Slowerson. 

I do everything at an unhurried pace, because I believe you can be, let’s call it, “not-the-best”, and still enjoy your sport.  So I was sad but understanding when the Irishman asked me to find a new athletic pursuit after the River Forest run.  See, even though I was mellow with my pace, it was embarrassing for him to always come in last with me.  And since I did vow in ’96 to love, honor, and not intentionally humiliate him, I dropped running.  For a while.

But with my forty-third year fast approaching, 30 extra pounds on my hips since high school and menopause nipping at my heels, I began to train for the Chicago Marathon.  Of course, right?  It is a mandatory rite of passage into mid-life-crisis-hood in Chicago.  And despite his general misgivings about the total loss of dignity, my giant leprechaun bravely signed on, proving once again to be the world’s best sport.  But since he and Chicago have the same pesky rule about  me not finishing 24 hours after starting, I had to cut my race in half.

On the plus side, running half a marathon nicely fit my laid-back method.  Still, getting into tip-top shape lay ahead.  Well, maybe not tip-top - I mean, that extra donut, who among us is really going to say “No” to that?  And additionally, in between viewing hundreds of butts passing us by in local races, there were the mandatory stops for breakfast at Ann Sather’s during practice runs.  But at least we were Out There, getting it done. 

So, imagine my surprise on Race Day when I found myself on Columbus Drive with 40 people running behind me.  That first mile is now a glorious albeit brief memory for me, because as soon as we crossed Wacker, all my followers, including a sixty-seven year old lady with a leg brace named Peggy, lapped me.

As per our usual race experience, Lucky Charms and I ran the rest of the day through a veritable ghost town, free of mileage signs, adulation, or Gatorade.  The snacks we had heard tale of in marathon literature were already packed or used up by the time we arrived.  The only reminders of other racers were mountains of cups for us to dodge, with curb crew volunteers busily sweeping them up.  And the “crowd” consisted of one lone “spectator” who was actually a man briefly caught behind a police tape.  In easily the Most Awkward Moment of the Race, the man shyly looked away as we approached.  Our one crumb of VIP treatment came at the Caribou Coffee booth, when the staff hustled to locate their last two lonely sprinkle donuts to buoy our spirits.

Then on Belmont Avenue, a startling development became the story of my racing year.  Yes, dear readers, there was actually Someone Still Behind Me.  A girl we had met a couple miles earlier with an injured foot became my final chance to not be last.  After my rigorous training throughout the year to work up to this moment, I was not going to let it, and her, slip away.

Block-by-block, we jockeyed for dominance.  You could taste the electricity, but then, of course, you would be like, electrocuted.  Nature, however, dealt me a cruel blow when His Sheleighliness suddenly needed a potty break.  And, after all his sacrifices for me, I could not ditch him.  This opened the door for Last Girl, who whizzed past me and sealed my fate. 

Why do I continue to run, if I am obviously so bad at it?  If you know, could you please call me?  At least on my own, I have it boiled down to this:  I have dreams, baby.  They sometimes end, as they did at the marathon, 13.1 miles shy of the actual finish line.  But I will still be Out There, getting it done next year, and barring coming to his senses, Green Clover will be right alongside me.  So don’t cry for me, Argentina.  Just wave as you blow past, because we’ll be having the time of our lives bringing up the rear.  I may never get a medal, but the real prize, the Irishman beside me, is all the gold I need at the end of the rainbow.