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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christilaw: Ludivine offers inspiration for wannabe runners

There are those who insist you don’t just roll off the couch and run a marathon.

Those people haven’t met Ludivine from Elkmont, Alabama. Of course, those who have met Ludivine have done it recently – she’s only 2 1/2 years old. And she’s a hound, and by that, I mean she’s a dog. Those of you old enough to remember “The Beverly Hillbillies,” think Jed Clampett’s hound, Duke.

Ludivine has a penchant for getting out of her backyard and wandering around town or taking a stroll through the woods.

And, it seems, she likes to run impromptu half-marathons.

One particular Saturday morning, she found her way to the starting line for the Trackless Train Trek Half Marathon, a quarter mile from the backyard where she had been let out to do her regular morning business.

She milled about with the runners as they stretched and hydrated and got themselves ready to run. And once the race started, Ludivine romped right along with the race leaders, which had to be disconcerting to runners who had planned their race for optimum times. Here’s an overgrown puppy, big, floppy brown ears bouncing as she matched them stride for stride. Her tongue lolled to one side, but in her case, that didn’t mean she was getting tired, although she’d occasionally leave the race to go sniff some bushes. But she always returned to the lead pack (no pun intended).

Part of what living in a small town is all about is the simple fact that everyone knows you and knows your business. So of course people watching the race were elbowing their neighbor saying “Hey – that’s Ludivine! And she’s making good time!”

Ludivine’s owner, April Hamlin, 43, figured something was up when she started getting text messages from friends that included pictures of her dog running with the race leaders.

The dog covered the entire 13.1 miles, plus additional mileage to investigate at least one dead rabbit and to briefly check out another dog along the way, in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 59 seconds. Good enough to earn a seventh-place medal, which race volunteers draped around Ludivine’s neck and immediately began taking pictures.

Not that anyone announced, but 1:32.59 simply has to be an age-group record. Can’t see another 2 1/2-year-old breaking that mark in the near future.

Ludivine’s owner said she was surprised her dog ran the race. She said Ludivine was laid-back and friendly and, well, basically a couch potato.

As a dog lover, I can’t actually tell you how long this story had me laughing; there were a couple coughing fits included, and nobody likes to time those.

In my case, the dog knows that she’s not allowed to sleep on the couch, which leads to occasional mornings when we walk to the kitchen and find a harlequin Great Dane sitting on the couch with a smug, canine look on her face. River knows she’s technically following the rules and not sleeping or stretching out on the couch so long as she has two of her four feet on the floor.

And I have no concerns about River sneaking out to run any kind of a race. Her idea of speed work is going down the stairs to get her business done and getting back inside as quickly as possible if the lawn is wet. Yes, she’s pretty much a big princess that way.

The picture that comes to mind of a bloodhound like Ludivine romping and playing and sniffing her way through a half-marathon is priceless.

That’s going to stick with me as I keep working toward my goal of getting up from the couch and doing a third Bloomsday – if and when spring returns.

I began planning for Bloomsday when Ludivine was 2 years old – just a couple days after I woke up in the middle of the night with what felt like a sledgehammer in the middle of my chest.

As heart attacks go, this one wasn’t bad and, thankfully, there was very little damage. It was a complication from having had two stents installed in a minor artery a week earlier.

Recovery has been a challenge. I’m not sure whether the medications I take to keep the stents from being rejected by my body aren’t also limiting my ability to exercise.

Still, progress has come. Slowly. But fast enough to recognize it as progress.

Bloomsday is still out there. And I’m determined to be there at the starting line. I know I’ll have company because I have a great support group surrounding me.

And I intend to treat the course the way Ludivine did. Without the sniffing part. Or the dead rabbit part. And I intend to keep my tongue in my mouth the whole way. But otherwise, like Ludivine. Like the happy, carefree romp that it is.

Steve Christilaw can be reached at steve.

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