When Ed Hudella’s name and race time were announced following the Scarecrow Stampede 5K in North Branch Sept. 29, members of the crowd who had gathered to watch the race winners don their medals were visibly awed by how fast Hudella ran the 5K.
Then somebody yelled out, “Were you chasing the beer truck?”
Hudella, 47, of North Branch, did not have a swiftly moving truck of golden suds in front of him acting as a pace setter during the race.
The only motivation he needed to post a 17.45 finish time in the 3.1-mile race was his internal drive.
Hudella ended up as the overall winner among men who entered the race, besting well-conditioned runners some 30 years younger.
A fast start, then a lull
Hudella said he got his start in running during a sophomore gym class at Alexander Ramsey High School.
“They were running 1-mile trials for the gym class,” he said. “I’d never really run before, and I ran a 5.18 mile, so the gym teacher referred me to the cross-country coach.”
During his junior year, Hudella’s team took second at the state meet, and then the next year the team earned the top spot, with Hudella leading the way.
After he graduated, Hudella didn’t stick with running, entering only one race in Little Canada in the two years following high school.
After that came a slightly longer break: 16 years.
But after Hudella moved from the metro to North Branch, his desire to get his feet back on the pavement sparked again.
He married his wife, Patricia, in 1999, and he said she helped motivate him to get back into running.
Starting out big
Some might take baby steps when getting back into an exercise routine or sport, but not Hudella.
His first race following the 16-year rest period and then some training was Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth.
He ran the race in 2001 and then again the following year.
Hudella said both races were quite an experience, but very tough mentally and physically, so he started entering 5Ks and 10Ks.
He then returned to his high school form and took first place in numerous races.
“Every race I’ve run this year besides two I’ve won,” he said. “I came in third place in the Lindstrom Loppet, and I came in second in a race I ran in Duluth.”
Hudella said he averages one race per month during the spring, summer and fall.
Between races Hudella trains, usually on roads that pass his home.
“A lot of evenings I’ll run 8 miles, and it really seems like it flies by just because it’s so pretty out,” he said.
Hudella estimated he runs 4 to 8 miles a day, five days a week.
Last year, Hudella even started running outside during the winter.
“I ran almost every day during the winter,” he said. “It made a huge difference in the spring.”
Not giving up
Hudella said he doesn’t plan to have any more multiple-year breaks from running.
“I think I’ll stick with it until my knees give out,” he said. “My endurance is just going down with age, so I take advantage of it while I can. I figure it inspires my kids to start running and get out there someday and do the 5 and 10Ks.”