What started as a typical tough half-marathon ended as anything but when a bloodhound joined the race and snagged a seventh-place finish.
According to Runner's World, Ludivine the hound slipped away from her backyard the morning of Jan. 16 and found her way to the starting line of the Trackless Train Trek Half Marathon in the sleepy town of Elkmont, Alabama.
"All I did was open the door, and she ran the race on her own accord," Ludivine's owner, April Hamlin, told Runner's World.
Keith Henry, 38, who won the race, said he spotted Ludivine sniffing around while he was warming up. The hound followed him through town the starting line, then ran neck and neck with Henry and another contender for two or three miles.
"She would cut in front of us; I thought we were going to trip over her," Henry recalled.
Eight miles in, Ludivine — distracted — fell into fourth place, according to Gregg Gelmis of WeRunHuntsville, a running club in Huntsville, Alabama, to which Henry belongs.
Tim Horvath, also a member of the running club, said he first met Ludivine in the parking lot before the race. She wandered off and later rejoined him, weaving in and out of the course as she encountered roadkill and other animals.
"She still loosely followed never getting more than probably 50 or 75 yards away at the most," Horvath said in an email to NBC. "Sometimes she was behind me, but more often in front or to the side of me. But always nearby."
One quick dip in the creek and two pit stops later, Ludivine kept pace with Horvath as they neared the end of the course. Horvath, who came in sixth, said he "got just a few seconds ahead of her" as he sprinted to the finish line.
Ludivine took seventh place, with a time of 1:32:56, according to Runner's World.
"I think she probably averaged seven minutes per mile," said Henry, impressed by the hound's ability to finish the tricky 13.1-mile trek.
Ludivine's owner, too, was surprised by the pup's performance. She tweeted a photo of Ludivine wearing a marathon medal around her neck.
"She’s laid back and friendly, so I can’t believe she ran the whole half marathon because she’s actually really lazy," Hamlin told Runner's World.
Ludivine may very well have earned a place in Elkmont history. This year's race was the first, and the next could be named in her honor.
"Rumor has it, next year's race will be called the Hounddog Half, with a special award going to 7th place," Gelmis posted on the WeRunHuntsville website.
Henry, who ran six-minute miles and finished in 1:19:10, said he may have taken the title, but Ludivine was the MVP.
"I won that race, but it seems like Ludivine was the real winner," he joked.