Friday, January 29, 2016

An Interview With Ludivine The Running Bloodhound

An amazing story about a dog named Ludivine made national news earlier this week when it was revealed that the 2 1/2 year-old bloodhound jumped in a local half marathon in Elkmont, Alabama, and eventually finished the race in 7th place!

You can read about Ludivine's half marathon debut here and you can check out more about the (now renamed) Hound Dog Half Marathon on the race's Facebook page. They even offer t-shirts that benefit the Elkmont High School track and cross country programs. I can't wait to wear the one I just ordered! Ludivine even has her own Facebook page!

I started following this story on Monday, so imagine my shock when I received an email from Ludivine herself saying she was a fan of the blog and was wondering if I'd like to write a post about the race. Ummm...yeah!

Of course, being she is a little busy now our interview was done via email, but she let me in on a lot of great info. So here are a few highlights from our conversation.

Photo from Hound Dog Half Facebook page
Let's Run Forever: First of all Ludivine, congratulations on finishing your first half marathon, and thanks for joining me today.

Ludivine: Thank you! Of course the pleasure is all mine. I've been a long-time reader of your blog and you have been a real help to me in my training.


Ludivine: Yes, training. Do you think I would hop into a half marathon without training for it? I'd been planning on running this race since it was first announced. I just was afraid to tell anyone about it, so I kind of kept it to myself.

LRF: What made you afraid to tell anyone?

Ludivine: Well, you know, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it, and I didn't want to get my hopes up, or anyone else's. That was also why I ran the race as a bandit, which I felt bad about, but was glad in the end everyone understood. Needless to say, the way my race unfolded was a crazy surprise to me!

LRF: I'd say, did you have any idea you would be able to finish seventh in 1:32:56?

Ludivine: Oh no. I mean, I'm a dog so I don't have a huge concept of time, you know? It's not like I can really wear a watch, so in training I would just run and try to have fun with it. On race day, when I finished and everyone was so excited, I kind of didn't understand it for a minute. But I felt so proud when I finished, and I was so happy to get a medal. My first race bling!

LRF: You do look very proud in your finisher's photo.

Ludivine: Oh because I was! I had worked hard for that medal! I haven't taken it off yet!

LRF: So let's backtrack a second. How did you start running?

Ludivine: Well, I have a pretty nice life with my mom, April Hamlin, but a few months ago I realized that I'd been kind of lazy and had let myself go a little bit. I just woke up one day and decided I didn't want to feel that way any more. So on one of my trips into town I was walking past a running store and started talking to a dog whose dad was in getting some Gu for his long run. She started telling me how much she likes to run with her dad and how much better she feels, and she looked great! So I asked her for some advice and got started.

LRF: How long did you train for the half.

Ludivine: About 12 weeks.

LRF: And you kept it a secret all that time?

Ludivine: Well, it was actually pretty easy. Before I started running I would often wander off of our property, so April was kind of used to seeing me leave and come back a while later. So whenever she would let me out, I'd walk slowly away like I was heading off to explore and when I got out of sight I'd start running!

LRF: Wow! So what was your training like?

Ludivine: Since I'm a dog I discovered I really had the genetics to be a runner! Who knew? I was lucky that I built up a pretty good base quickly, but most of the time I'd run until I was hungry or thirsty and then I'd head home. I also did a lot of interval training, and that helped build up my speed.

LRF: Interval training?

Ludivine: Of course! I'd chase rabbits and squirrels, stuff that went bump in the night...I discovered that just doing what a dog does is great speed training.

LRF: But April said that you were still kind of lazy...

Ludivine: Yeah, because I was tired from running! :--) See, that was part of my cover, I made it look that way so no one was the wiser.

LRF: Good plan!

Ludivine: I couldn't believe it worked so well. No one had any idea.

LRF: So tell us about your race day...

Ludivine: I was so excited that I could barely sleep! When the sun came up I went to the back door as if I had to -- well, you know (blushing) -- and when I was let out I headed over to the race.

It was so exciting to be there! There were so many people, and lots of music, I just wandered around and made a bunch of new friends until it was time for the race to start.

LRF: What were your emotions as the race started.

Ludivine: When it was time to start I was both nervous and excited. I wasn't really sure where to line up, though. I mean, I had trained all by myself and didn't know how fast or slow I was. So I made sure when the race started I stayed off to the side a little bit to stay out of everyone's way.

LRF: Then you went straight to the front!

Ludivine: I know, right! It kind of surprised even me! But I just focused on my breathing and tried to set a good pace. Joanie, the dog I met at the running store (Editor's note: Named after the legendary runner Joan Benoit Samuelson) once old me I should try to be able to keep a conversation while I was running. So every so often I'd bark a few times to make sure I didn't go out too fast. And it worked!

LRF: In the pictures I saw it looked like you were having fun!

Ludivine: More fun than I'd ever had! The guys I ran with were very nice, they let me run with them and gave me a lot of encouraging words.

LRF: One of the runners said you veered of course a handful of times, once to smell a dead animal, you played in the woods a couple of times and even went into a field full of cows...

Ludivine: You know, some things you just can't help sometimes. Like with the rabbit, I was running along, saw the rabbit, and something in my brain just said, "Stop and smell the rabbit." So I did. I went into the woods for a drink of water, and actually I had made friends with the cows on my run a few weeks before, and they insisted that I stop and say hi!

And besides, what fun is running if you don't stop and appreciate things every so often? I had a couple of runs where I got so focused I kind of lost sight of what was around me, and really that wasn't a lot of fun. So I decided that I was going to make sure that I had fun on every run I did.

I should also say that I was following the Jeff Galloway method of incorporating walk breaks into my run, so if anyone saw me slowing down or looking distracted, I was probably taking a walk break. Jeff's stuff really works!

LRF: How did you fuel during the race? Did you take any Gu or gels or anything?

Ludivine: No, just water. It was a cool day so I didn't feel like I needed anything else. I tried Gu once on a training run and it didn't go got stuck to the roof of my mouth and I needed April to help me. That was the only time I think she may have come close to figuring out what I was doing.

LRF: Did you ever get tired?

Ludivine: There were a couple of times, but I just trusted my training, had fun and did my best. That was enough for me.

LRF: Did you ever think when you crossed the finish line that you were about to become famous?

Ludivine: No! The first thing I wanted to do was drink some water and take a nap? Then I saw a lot of people gathering around me and taking pictures and I realized then that maybe I had done something special.

LRF: So how are you handling things?

Ludivine: I just keep doing all of the things I usually do. I still wander around town and go for runs, but April, my dogmom, has done a great job of keeping everything pretty normal.

LRF: How surprised were you when you found out the race will be called the "Hound Dog Half Marathon"?

Ludivine: Very surprised and kind of embarrassed! I am just a dog that likes to run, but I'm very flattered too. I'm looking forward to being an ambassador for the race.

LRF: And it is bringing attention to a good cause...

Ludivine: That's the best part! The race was put on to raise funds for the Elkmont High School cross country team, so the attention has been so good for them. I see the kids out running, and they all work so hard, so it's nice to get them some of the things they need. That's the thing that makes me the happiest about this whole thing.

LRF: Well, Ludivine, it was so nice to talk to you. Thank you for reaching out to me and for such good conversation! 

Ludivine: Thanks! I hope to see everyone at next year's race!


That was fun! I also recorded a podcast about Ludivine and how she could teach us a thing or two about our own running. You can hear it here!