Sen. Richard Lugar at ACLI Capital Challenge race on Wednesday morning. (Bob Burgess)

When Sen. Dick Lugar ran his 30th consecutive ACLI Capital Challenge last year, the celebration was a modest one. Everyone just assumed there’d be a few more milestones ahead.

But the Indiana Republican lost his primary last week. Next year, he will no longer be eligible to run the annual three-miler, which pits teams of Capitol Hill folks, agency staffers and journalists against one another. So it was his 31st race Wednesday in Anacostia Park that turned into a bittersweet victory lap.

What kept him running all these years?

“I thought it was a beautiful opportunity,” Lugar told us, to see so many faces from both sides of the aisle and different facets of the Washington machine.

Lugar greets fans before the race. (Amy Argetsinger/The Washington Post)

In defeat last week, Lugar issued an angry warning about the “unrelenting partisan mindset” he saw in primary opponent Richard Mourdock and other tea-party types. But it was a smiling Lugar who showed up early Wednesday, embraced by a crowd of fellow runners.

“There’s no one more knowledgeable about foreign policy than the man on your right,” a fan called out to celebrity officiant Meb Keflezighi as the Olympic marathoner, a native of Eritrea, posed for photos with Lugar. “He can tell you a lot about your own country!”

Decades ago, Lugar — a runner since high school — was often the fastest senator in the race, sponsored by the American Council of Life Insurers. This year, as in recent years, he brought up the rear, jogging/walking the course in 45 minutes, 17 seconds. Finishing, he told us was the only goal. “No chance to do any training the last few months with the campaign.”

As for the future? Well, there was a roll call vote to make later that morning, he said. Beyond that, “I have no idea.”

Read earlier: Dick Lugar, at 79, competes in Washington footrace for 30th year, 5/4/11