Early on Saturday morning, Ludivine, a two-and-a-half-year-old hound dog, was let out of her house in Elkmont, Alabama, to do her business. Prone to roaming around town at will, Ludivine snuck out of the backyard and made her way to the starting area of the inaugural Trackless Train Trek Half Marathon about a quarter mile away. Ludivine proceeded to mingle with the runners, run the entire 13.1-mile course, cross the finish line with a time of 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, said, adding that 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 downtown or the woods nearby - to the point where everyone in Elkmont knows who she is - so the guidance counsellor at Elkmont High School wasn’t surprised her pup 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.
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 at around the 2-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 then put a medal around her neck.