Early on Saturday 19th January, Ludivine, a 2½-year-old hound dog, was let out of the house in Elkmont, Alabama, to do her business. Prone to roaming around town at will, Ludivine snuck out of the garden and made her way to the starting area of the inaugural Trackless Train Trek Half Marathon about a quarter of a mile away.
Ludivine proceeded to mingle with the runners, run the entire 13.1-mile course, cross the finish line in an unofficial 1:32:56, and have a medal draped over her floppy brown ears - all without her owner, April Hamlin, realising she had wandered off in the first place.
“All I did was open the door, and she ran the race on her own accord,” Hamlin, 43, told Runner’s World, saying she received texts with photos of Ludivine from friends who were volunteering at the finish. “My first reaction was that I was embarrassed and worried that she had possibly gotten in the way of the other runners.”
Hamlin said Ludivine has a penchant for solo strolls through the town or woods nearby - to the point where everyone in Elkmont knows who she is - so the guidance counselor at Elkmont High School wasn’t surprised her dog had left her pen again.
The fact that she ran 13.1 miles did take her aback, however. “She’s laid back and friendly, so I can’t believe she ran the whole half marathon because she’s actually really lazy,” said Hamlin, who added that she isn’t a runner herself.
Tim Horvath, 49, ran most of the race with the pup. “I saw her for the first time in the parking lot before the race,” said Horvath, a resident of Huntsville, Alabama. “She came bouncing up, and I petted her on the head. I saw her collar, so I just figured she was somebody’s dog. Elkmont is a small town where everyone knows everybody, so it didn’t strike me as unusual.”
Once the starting gun fired, Ludivine took off with the leaders, including Jim Clemens, 48, who eventually placed fourth overall in 1:23:15.
“Every time I thought she had dropped off to go back home, I would hear her coming back up to me, and she would race past me up to the two leaders,” Clemens said. “She would run off to romp through streams and into yards to sniff around for a while.”
When Ludivine stopped to investigate a dead rabbit around the two-mile mark, Horvath caught back up with her. For the rest of the race, Ludivine stayed within 50 metres of Horvath, hopping on and off the course.
“One time she went over and met another dog next to the course,” Horvath said. “Later on, she went into a field with some mules and cows. Then she’d come back and run around our legs. I wondered if she was going to get tired or go back to wherever her home was.”
But Ludivine kept running despite her distractions and eventually finished just behind Horvath who ran 1:32 for sixth place. Once Ludivine crossed the line, she slowed to a walk. Volunteers, apparently in awe of the spectacle, put a medal around her neck and started taking photos, Horvath said.
Hamlin said she is thrilled by the attention Ludivine’s race banditting has brought to the event. “It’s the first half marathon in Elkmont, and the people who started it are parents of the kids who run cross country,” Hamlin said. “They wanted to try and fundraise because our school system doesn’t have a ton of money for cross country. Because of this dog, they are getting so much publicity, and I think that’s the best part.”