Hudgins crossed the finish line at 4:17.32, more than 10 seconds slower than his goal and seventh in the 15-person elite men category.
But considering he was diagnosed 11 years ago with granulomatosis with polyangiitis, a rare autoimmune blood disease, and breathes through a windpipe the size of a man’s pinkie, it was a feat that he even participated in — and finished — the event.
“I can’t say it in a not expletive form. I thought I was going to do much better,” said the Jamestown, N.C., resident, who still receives treatment — most recently an immunotherapy session in March, with another set for Thursday. “But I’m proud of myself for not throwing in the towel and jogging it in.”
The fourth annual Navy Mile consists of different heats, in which runners are grouped by age and ability from elite and Paralympic heats to Sea Cadets and family fun run/walk heats. The event is modeled after the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City and is the grand finale race in the Bring Back the Mile Grand Prix Tour of races nationwide. Participants ran the course on Pennsylvania Avenue NW by the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza to Third Street NW and back, with the U.S. Capitol visible.
“Running toward the Capitol and back, that’s pretty cool,” said Kristoff Inocentes of Falls Church, who ran in the 20-29 age group. “I’m used to racing more at a park or on a track, so this is a nice change.”
Josef Tessema of Castle Rock, Colo., clocked an event record of 4:01.89 to earn first place in the elite men category. Heather Kampf, who was coming off multiple sacral stress fractures after winning the race in 2016, crossed the finish line first among the elite women with her hands lifted high, smiling widely.
Her first reaction when she finished? “Thank you, God.”
“My first and foremost goal was to appreciate the joy of being back,” said Kampf, who hails from Minneapolis and finished with a time of 4:40.77.
The biggest cheer of the day went to Dixon Hemphill of Fairfax Station, Va., a World War II veteran and the oldest runner of the event at age 93. Many attendees gathered at the finish line and applauded Hemphill as he finished the race in 20:55.69. He was first greeted by his granddaughter, who he didn’t know would be at the event. She welcomed him with a kiss on the cheek.
“I’m so proud of my grandfather. Every time I go out to see him, my insides feel overwhelmed with joy that he is able to still do what he loves,” Lisa Hemphill said. “It motivated me to start running as well, and it’s something I can connect with him on.”
The Navy Mile, established and organized by the National Capital Council of the Navy League, supports the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps and the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation while providing a scenic run for competitive and novice runners.
The Coast Guard’s Erich Klein, who participated in his third Navy Mile run this year, attended the event with his two daughters, Anna and Olivia. He said that he appreciates a fun, family event and will take part in a future Navy Mile.
“Just the camaraderie with the sea cadets and active duty military that comes to support the runners is what makes it fun,” said Klein, who is from Silver Spring. “A mile is a nice easy run for family members.”